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History on a Shirt

Spad t-shirt

$25.00

SPAD XIII James Norman Hall Mutiny on the Bounty Short Sleeve Military Green 100% Cotton Gildan T-Shirt

The SPADs were called "beauties", "ultimate aircraft of the war", and "more impressive by far than any other airplane, any other automobile, any other piece of equipment I had ever seen" by no less than the American Ace of Aces, and former race car celebrity, Eddie Rickenbacker.

This design celebrates a particular SPAD pilot, James Norman Hall, who at one point was Rickenbacker's commander and shared Rickenbacker's first kill. Hall had sneaked into WWI in 1914 when Americans weren't supposed to be fighting. Discovered and sent back to America, he wrote the popular pro-Allied book Kitchener's Mob. His publisher got him back in France to write about WWI aviation, but he got caught up in it instead and flew for the Lafayette Escadrille and later the 103rd Aero and 94th Aero (Hat in the Ring) Squadrons.

Having survived being shot down and captured, and then escaping in the final days of the war, after the war he co-wrote several books with a fellow pilot, Charles Nordhoff, starting with the history of the Lafayette Escadrille. Today the most famous of their collaborations is Mutiny on the Bounty, which includes a quote about ships that sounds as if the authors were thinking about airships, maybe SPADs:

For a ship is the noblest of all man's works—a cunning fabric of wood, and iron, and hemp, wonderfully propelled by wings of canvas, and seeming at times to have the very breath of life.

Hall was well-suited to write this story of Tahitian history, as he lived the rest of his life in Tahiti. Hall's daughter Nancy married Nick Rutgers of the family that founded Rutgers University. Nick was also a pilot, but in the second world war. The family legacy continues today with another flying Nick Rutgers. Hall got to know the Parks family and the families have remained friends. Nick and Nancy Rutgers are also good friends of the museum, who sponsored the VAFM's flying SPAD, painted in Hall's colors.

Our t-shirt shows Hall's SPAD in the foreground, with the ghost of the Bounty behind it. 


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