I have traveled through the Atlanta Hartsfield airport for years. So I was delighted to discover that the Delta Flight Museum is located a quick cab ride from the terminal. While the Museum opened in 1995, it was by appointment only. The Museum opened its doors to the general public in 2014, marking Delta’s 85th year of airline passenger service.
The Museum is housed in two massive 1940s era hangers. The artifacts that on display and chronicle the history of the airline are just a small fraction of what the museum holds.
Hanger 1 is all about the founding of Delta Airlines from its roots as a crop-dusting operation in Monroe, Louisiana to its launch as a passenger airline in the late 1920s. Here you will find a Travel Air 6B Sedan, similar to the one that was used by Delta’s first passenger flights in 1929.
The centerpiece of the hanger is the DC-3, Ship 41 that flew Delta passengers from 1941 until 1958. It was acquired in 1993 and then restored to its heyday by volunteers and Delta employees.
The 117 seat theater at the rear of the hanger is where I learned about the history of the Delta Widget, which was introduced in 1959. The widget was inspired by the jet wing and the Greek letter Delta. It would become the company logo in 1962. There are several other short films on the history of the airline to enjoy. Next door to the theater is a large display of aircraft models from several airlines. Most focus on the 747.
Hanger 2 speaks to the Jet Age of the company with the Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767. The aircraft was purchased for the airline by the employees in 1982. It was a thirty million dollar employee fundraiser to buy Delta’s first 767. The aircraft retired in September 2006 and became a major exhibit in December 2006.
The Spirit of Delta provided a short film about the history of the aircraft, and in the rear of the plane, there is a large display of uniforms from the various sections of the airline’s employees. In May, on display was the 1969 uniform of Pat Murphy, Delta’s first African American Flight Attendant. It was the flight attendants that began the fundraising to purchase the Spirit of Delta. Hanger 2 is where you can train just like the Delta pilots do in a 737-200 full motion simulator.
The Margaret Mitchell house is one part of the collection of residences maintained by the Atlanta History Center. Atlanta’s own Margaret Mitchell wrote only one novel, Gone with the Wind. Today, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is known as a Southern masterpiece.
Margaret was born into an affluent family with ancestors that had served in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. As a child, she heard stories of the Civil War from veterans. She was an avid reader. She was engaged before she entered college, and unfortunately, her fiancé was killed in France in World War I.
She made her debut in Atlanta Society in 1920. By many accounts, she was the life of the party. She married for the first time in 1922, and the union would only last four months. Her first husband was abusive and an alcoholic.
Her working career began when she took a job writing Sunday feature articles for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. She would marry her editor John Marsh in 1925. They would move to Apartment 1 in Midtown Atlanta and live there for seven years. (Today’s, Margaret Mitchell House). It was a small apartment with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room in a multiunit midtown Atlanta house. Margaret christened it the “Dump.” There were ten apartments in the building.
Margaret began writing Gone with the Wind in 1926 at the apartment after breaking her ankle in a car accident. It would take her ten years to complete the novel. She typed the manuscript on a portable Remington typewriter. She would leave chapters all around the apartment in manila folders and ultimately write 86 chapters and over a thousand pages.
A McMillan Publishing scout invited Margaret to a luncheon and she decided to submit the manuscript. Margaret said she only sent the manuscript in to show that the novel could be rejected. The exact opposite happened. McMillan accepted it, and it became a major bestseller, selling over a million copies in six months.
She won the National Book Award in 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Producer David Selznick was aware of the book and wanted it for a movie. Margaret sold the rights to Selznick for fifty thousand dollars in 1938. In today’s money, it would be about two million dollars.
Margaret was famous overnight, and her phone rang off the hook. During that time, she and her husband would move to different hotels for privacy. She would eventually leave town and live in Florida for some time. Considered a recluse by many, she was a private person.
She would not go to Hollywood to see Gone with the Wind being filmed. She did correspond with Selznick on some items for the film. She disagreed with Selznick on the design of Tara. It was supposed to be a farmhouse; not the grand house shown in the movie. Margaret did attend the premiere of the film in Atlanta.
Margaret received 10% of movie ticket sales, and by 1948, it had done eight million in sales.
In August 1949, on her way to a movie with her husband, Margaret was struck by a speeding cab and died five days after the accident at Grady Hospital. Her husband, John, passed away in 1952 from heart trouble.
Her father and brothers all benefited financially from the book deal. In 2011, her nephew donated twenty million dollars to the archdiocese in Atlanta. Today, the Gone with the Wind book deal profits are is still going to the Catholic Church and her heirs.
She did much of her research for the book at the Atlanta Public Library. There you can see several of her personal belongings, including her portable Remington typewriter, foreign editions of Gone with the Wind and her National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.
The second-floor exhibit area is all about the Atlanta premiere of the film. Across the courtyard, you will find some artifacts from the film and Scarlet’s portrait from the movie.
Gone with the Wind is an epic story of the Civil War South. Don’t just see the movie, read the book.