Christening of the Yankee Clipper March 3, 1939

Pan Am B 314 Yankee Clipper over Long Island 1940

Speech delivered by Mr. J.T. Trippe
President of the Pan American Airways System

Within a few minutes the First Lady of the Land will christen, in the name of the American people, a new flagship of America’s Merchant Marine of the Air. Soon thereafter, it is hoped, this same Yankee Clipper will carry the American flag across aviation’s’ last frontier – the Atlantic Ocean – to link the New World and Old.

To those, both within and without the aviation industry,  who have labored long in the cause of America’s air leadership, the Yankee Clipper represents a vital achievement. To the five thousand men and women of the Pan American Airways System scattered at the posts in the United States and 46 foreign lands, it has a particular significance. To its successful development they have each contributed greatly.

History has clearly shown that among all the nations in the world, those which have developed to the fullest, their facilities for communication and transport have been the nations which have led the advance of civilization, and which have raised above all others, the standard of living of their people.

A century ago and for three brief decades, our nation held that world leadership. A small country, confined to our Atlantic coast, when our vital sea commerce was crowded from the seas by stronger competitors, America rose to claim her rightful maritime birthright. Inspired in this cause our merchants provided the capital, our shipwrights the genius, our master mariners the driving power that brought into being a new maritime force. From our seaports raced forth a new breed of ocean craft, the Clippers, of such sharp-cut lines and towering masts as had never before been seen upon the seas. With hard-driving Yankee masters on their quarter decks, they raced through gales and over endless seas, lee rails awash, tall-rigging, taut with full-blown sails, to sweep our flag to a leadership upon the Seven Seas that was never successfully to be challenged in the days of sail. And in these thirty years our commerce mounted, our prestige among the nations rose, the standard of living of our people increased at a rate which has never since been equaled in our history.

But the age of iron and steam was coming and we were unprepared. Our place upon the seas was soon forgotten as the manpower of the nation and its industry moved westward to develop the richest land empire the world has ever known.

Today, the frontier of our great west is behind us. Once again we have come to a realization, just as did our forefathers in the days of sail, that America’s position among the nations of the world, the prosperity of our industry and commerce, the welfare of all our people is inseparably bound up in the advancement of our foreign trade.

Thirty-five years ago America gave the world the airplane. But other nations developed it. Soon after the world war, the great transports of European nations were flying over age-old trade routes to Asia, Africa, and South America to assure for the countries a greater share of the world’s commerce. For many years America only watched.

Then ten years ago from that same heritage that produced the sailing clipper ships, once again the nation’s business men provided the capital and the nation’s industry provided the constructive genius to bring forth the Yankee clippers of the air which have again proved their superiority over all competitors. Commanded, like their predecessors, by American captains, manned by gallant crews, they have – in ten short years – brought our nation from last to first place on the airways of the world.

Today, America is ideally fitted, by heritage, by ability, and by the will of her people, to maintain this leadership – upon which our national economy, our standard of living itself, is becoming increasingly dependent.

Congress and the Administration with far-sighted vision, have made sound plans to assure our nation continued leadership in the air. The new Civil Aeronautics Authority is already taking constructive steps to foster its progress. We of Pan American Airways, for our part, pledge the nation that our every effort will continue steadfastly devoted to making these new clipper ships of the air a source of pride to our nation and a force for peace and prosperity on the great trade routes of the world.

Return to Juan Trippe, 20th Century Visionary

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