Pass the salt–and a pen

After Jimmy Doolittle made the first flight solely by reference to instruments, the Doolittles celebrated by throwing a dinner party. Ever the gracious hostess, Josephine Doolittle asked the guests to help commemorate the event by signing the white linen tablecloth. She then embroidered the names in black thread.

Among the guests who signed the tablecloth were Daniel Guggenheim, who two years earlier had established a $2.5 million fund to promote the art, science and business of aviation, his son Harry, who created the Full Flight Laboratory at Mitchel Field in New York, and Navy Capt. Jerry Land, who recommended Doolittle be the pilot for the first blind flight, which took place in 1928.

The signing of the tablecloth became a tradition in the Doolittle household. As most of the dinner guests were famous or became famous in the aviation world, the tablecloth ultimately became a showcase for Who’s Who during aviation’s Golden Age. Today the tablecloth resides in the Smithsonian.

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