Leather Face

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Pilot Edward Gardner's aviation face mask

No, this mask is not a relic from a horror movie. It was worn by airmail pilot Eddie Gardner during his airmail service. Gardner flew for the Post Office Department’s airmail service from August 1918 to April 1919. The open air cockpits of the early airmail planes left pilots exposed to frigid weather conditions.

Gardner’s winter flying gear included this face mask, his leather flying suit, a leather vest, sheepskin boots, wool socks, high overshoes, and a leather helmet. The gear was essential on flights when the cockpit temperature reached near zero degrees Fahrenheit. Gardner left the airmail service in April 1919. He died on May 6, 1921, after crashing while flying stunts in Holdrege, Nebraska.