Finding Amelia Earhart in Southern California

Statue of Amelia Earhart in North Hollywood.

We’ve all heard the story of Amelia Earhart, the great female pilot who set numerous aviation records in the 1920s and 30s who disappeared mysteriously in the South Pacific during a failed attempt to circle the globe. Interest in the famous aviatrix remains high over 70 years after her disappearance, as witnessed by the recent release of the film Amelia, starring Hilary Swank.

While we are still unsure as to her final fate, we do know that when she was on the ground, it was often in Southern California.


Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas and caught the flying bug early while watching an air show in Canada. After relocating to California, she learned to fly at Kinner Field in Long Beach, and was issued the 16th pilot’s license ever given to a woman.

She became the first female passenger to ride in an airplane across the Atlantic in 1928. Although she did no flying on the trip, she still garnered the most acclaim from the world’s press who commented on her physical resemblance to Charles Lindbergh by nicknaming her “Lady Lindy.”  

The trip not only made her famous, but was responsible for bringing Earhart and her future husband George Putnam together. Putnam, who worked for his family’s publishing empire, became her manager and published a book she wrote. They fell in love and were married in February 1931.

Amelia Earhart's home in Toluca Lake. She planned her fateful around-the-world flight under a carob tree in the courtyard.

Putnam later left the publishing business and the couple settled permanently on the West Coast in a house at 10042 Valley Spring Drive in Toluca Lake, near Warner Bros. Studios. Earhart continued to compete in air races and to set numerous distance and altitude records. In May 1932 she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, landing in a pasture in Northern Ireland.

On June 1, 1937, Earhart left from Miami with her navigator Fred Noonan on an attempted 29,000-mile trip to circle the globe. The two made numerous stops and had completed the first 22,000 miles of the journey when they left New Guinea aiming for Howland Island in the South Pacific. They never made it.

Several theories have come forward to explain their disappearance, ranging from simply running out of gas and crashing into the ocean, to dying as Japanese prisoners-of-war. Modern science may once-and-for-all settle the mystery of the disappearance of Earhart, who was born 113 years ago this coming Saturday.

New evidence discovered by The International Group for Historical Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) suggests that the pair may have actually perished on an uninhabited island 300 miles to the southeast of Howland Island. Researchers are now trying to extract DNA evidence from three pieces of a pocket knife and from what appears to be a broken cosmetics jar discovered on the island to see if they once belonged to the missing flyers.


About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

2 responses to “Finding Amelia Earhart in Southern California

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