MOTU@5 | How We Got Here Online Exhibit | Happy Landings: A look back at the PHL

Throughout October, MOTU and the Free Library of Philadelphia will be showcasing unique archival images from Philadelphia’s transportation and utlities history in an on-line exhibit called “How’d we get here?”.  Every and Monday and Wednesday in October we will be showcasing a certain segment of the exhibit (all photographs are from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Print and Picture Collection).

Today we’ll be taking a brief look at the history of aviation in Philadelphia by selecting three of our favorite photos from the “Happy Landings: A look back the PHL” portion of the exhibit.  You can check out all of the historic airport photos online here and in person at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Central Branch (1901 Vine Street).

Airplanes started regularly serving the Philadelphia region in the 1920’s, but the Philadelphia Municipal Airport did not open until 1940. During its first year of operation it served 40,000 passengers. Today, the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) serves over 30 million passengers every year and generates more than $14.4 billion in spending to the regional economy, and accounts for more than 141,000 jobs within the region. Since 2008, PHL has welcomed 4 new airlines to the airport and started non-stop service to 6 new international cities. Today PHL is working on a multi-billion dollar capacity enhancement program to reduce air traffic congestion for the next generation of travelers. Take a look back at the earliest days of air travel in Philadelphia to see how far we have come.

William Penn Airport, Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia, 1930

william penn airport, roosevelt blvd, phila, 19301

Image on page thirteen of the pamphlet – This pamphlet predates the completion of the Philadelphia Municipal Airport, when the Central Airport was located in Camden NJ and provides a map of all area airports, listing their obstructions, markings, lighting and accommodations.  It also includes a list of area aviation industry suppliers as well as civic associations such as the Philadelphia Model Aeroplane Association, which had 168 active chapters, sponsored and directed by the Aero Club of Pennsylvania and the Playgrounds association of Philadelphia and the Evening Bulletin.

Municipal Airport construction, 1936

international airport 19361

Construction of the Philadelphia Municipal Airport began in 1937 and was not completed until three years later.  The airport opened on June 20, 1940.

Interior view of the Philadelphia International Airport, 1953

international airport 1954 top 51

The new 1953 Philadelphia International Airport reflects a modernist architectural stylings.


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