Here’s what I've discovered about the history of the United Airlines Collector Series
prints. As I’ve indicated elsewhere,
the information presented here may not be 100% correct. Please, make comment if you see inaccuracies, or
can add more.
In the early 1970’s, United Airlines commissioned noted
aviation artist Nixon Galloway to produce 43 watercolor paintings of airplanes that were
part of the United fleet over the course of its history. The paintings were reduced to 8 ½”x11”
lithographs, printed on a high quality felt paper.
Starting in January of 1974, the lithographs (prints) were provided to frequent flyers on a regular
basis for many years. Initially, the prints were sent to Million Mile Club members. Later, the prints were offered to members of
Executive Air Travel Program (EATP), supposedly the
nation's first air miles reward program.
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Print Issue Methodology
solely on print copyright dates and intro letters, I believe the program ran from 1974-1981. But the history of the exact release methodology of the prints is
unclear. I’ll tell you what I know for
sure. Many of the prints have multiple
copyright dates. For example, the
Curtiss Carrier Pigeon, the 3rd print in the series, has copyright
dates of 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978.
So obviously, this print was issued several times over the years. Was
there one initial issue order for all of the prints? Originally I thought not, but a document I received in 09/11 makes me believe that there might have been an issue order that occurred over many years, during which time older releases were being reissued. The document I refer to is a marketing piece from 04/77 signed by then VP Howard Putnam. It indicates that at that time the portfolio of prints numbered 25, with the most recent addition being the Viscount. That data agrees with the order I've established on the Prints page. Putnam's piece also states "A different selection (print) will be offered in each bi-monthly issue of Executive Air Travel Report". The first print (Boeing 40B-4) in the order was issued January 18, 1974 and assuming the final print was released in early 1981- that's roughly 86+ months. BINGO! 86 months divided by 43 prints in the series equals a new release every 2 months (bi-monthly per Putnam's letter).
What happened when you joined the program?— What did you get? I think UA sent you the current print in the order, and if you were interested you had to request prints that were issued earlier in the sequence. Based on these requests, UA kept sending out the earlier issues, producing more as required with newer copyrights dates. This means that some of the earlier prints were issued several times before later prints in the order even debuted.
For some reason, I have no prints that bear a 1974 copyright
date. What happened that year? I know the first print, bearing a 1973 copyright date, was issued in January of 1974. I've concluded that the first 8 prints were produced and copyrighted late in 1973. There was no need to produce and copyright any in 1974 as they were distributing the 1973 copyrights.
Why has it been so difficult to put the order
together? Here’s why. Each print was issued with what I call a Spec Card and an Intro Letter. See the Cards & Letters page for more
on these. The intro letter was signed
by the marketing VP at the time. Surprisingly, none
of the intro letters was dated! The
first time a print was introduced, the letter text identified the print’s order in
the series. But subsequent releases of
the same print came with the same intro letter, less the print order text, and
signed by the VP of the day. I’ve assembled a list of VPs from
1973-1981. As another tool, I have
used the VPs as an indicator of a print’s release date and hence its order in the sequence. But one must be careful
because, since many of the prints were issued multiple times over different years, with several
different VPs issued intro letters. To further complicate this strategy, sometimes one calendar year saw two different men in the VP position!
in all, it has been challenging to put together the exact order of all of the initial issues. As an additional hurdle, I
also discovered that near the end of the program in 1981 (when VP Zeeman was in power), UA packaged 4 prints at
a time and sent them to participants.
I suspect that they were using “left-overs” of earlier releases.
Here are the three primary ways that I have been able to establish the order. See The Prints
page for my order (simply numbered from 1-43). Firstly, as I
mentioned above, the initial introduction letters identified the print order. For example, the 1973 Ryan M-1 intro letter
from Senior VP Richard Ferris reads: “The enclosed print, second in the
series….” What a great sure-fire way to get the order! The problem is, after the issuance of #18, the Pitcairn Mailwing, they stopped putting the order number in the intro letters. So, ordering the first 18 was easy once I collected those first issue intro letters.
Secondly, each print, spec card and intro letter was mailed
in a large white envelope to the program participant. I'm aware of 3 different envelope designs, 2 are shown below. In the Label Detail, notice the 2 numbers at the top. The left hand number was the participant's membership number. The right hand number represented
the series order of the print in the envelope.
Once again, since I have not seen every envelope, I have not been able
to verify the entire order this way.
Also, not every one of the early first issue envelopes employed this labeling method.
Thirdly, a while back I discovered that 1979 copyrighted spec cards
for prints #32-#37 contain the order number of that print: It's the
first two digits of the series of numbers at the bottom! For me, that
discovery provided rock-solid proof for the order of these 6 prints.
Sidebar: The envelope's contents were kept flat by the insertion of a brown piece of cardboard. Unfortunately, over time the cardboard tended to discolor whatever was in contact with it. And so depending how the 3 pieces were arranged over the cardboard, irregular patches of discoloration mark many prints that were left in their original envelopes. Also, often times the cardboard was dimensionally a bit smaller than the print. The result is that many of the prints that are still in original envelopes have corner creasing.