Tall-Tale Aviation Photo

image Richard has written in with a question about the photograph (to the right) that's being sold as a print by The New York Times. It shows the sky above Portland, Oregon filled with biplanes. It was taken in 1920 by the photographer C.S. Woodruff. Richard questions whether the picture can possibly be real, and I think he's right to do so. First of all, the biplanes seem dangerously close to each other, all clustered together in a swarm. Second, by 1920 there were hundreds of biplanes and trained pilots in the U.S. But what would they have been doing all gathered together in Portland? Could one city have produced that many pilots and planes in 1920? Probably not. Finally, if you look at a larger version of the picture, it's pretty obvious that it's the same biplane pasted into the photo numerous times. In other words, this is a tall-tale photo. Such photos were all the rage in the early twentieth century. A sky filled with planes must have seemed like a fairly farfetched concept to people in 1920.


Posted on Sun Feb 01, 2004


This photo, by Corbis.com is used by the New York Times in their sale of historical photos and can be presumed by purchasers as an historical fact. The position of the planes makes it a physically impossible event.
My letters to them(both Corbis.com and the NYT's) calling their attention to this fakery and false reporting go unanswered.
Posted by william woudenberg  on  Sun Feb 01, 2004  at  02:06 PM
Yep, half the planes are identical, and the other half are mirror images. Then there are the tiny identical sideview planes scattered in between. Everthing's equally spaced with no overlap -- a poorly layed out cut-and-paste job.
Posted by Ed  in  PA  on  Mon Feb 02, 2004  at  12:05 PM
This is one pathetic photo. It's obvious how alike the planes are and how weird it looks the way some are facing the other direction. Stupid.
Posted by Peter  in  Michigan  on  Wed Feb 11, 2004  at  05:15 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.