Skip to Main Content

The entrance to Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Monuments Men: Army P-39 Airacobra Show

March 24, 2014

The Army P-39 Airacobra Show (November 18–December 8, 1942) dramatized one of Buffalo’s major contributions to the war effort.

Organized by the Albright Art Gallery in cooperation with the Bell Aircraft Corporation, the exhibition comprised photo-enlargements showing the development of the Airacobra airplane from drafting board to flight. Beginning with the full-scale outline, significant steps in the making of the plane were pictured, from the preparation of the parts for the assembly line to the point where the plane rolls onto the field for testing. A series of flight shots, views of the plane being created and shipped, and finally performance in foreign fields completed the exhibition. 

Supplementing the show was a display of miniature models of leading types of foreign and American planes hand carved by students in the Buffalo Public Schools, under the aegis of the US Office of Education, Washington, D.C., and the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. The showing of these models at the museum was sponsored by the Buffalo Chapter of the Junior Red Cross. An all-color sound movie of the Airacobra, “Cannon on Wings,” was shown twice a day during the exhibition, and 2,200 color reproductions of the plane were given out to children courtesy of the Bell Aircraft Corporation. 

Exhibitors quickly grasped the potentialities for morale building on the home front during the war. These potentialities were clearly demonstrated in Buffalo, where special days were set aside for employees of sub-contractors to the Bell Aircraft Corporation to visit the exhibition, as well for students in the industrial arts classes throughout the city.  

Numerous requests from museums throughout the country led to the museum circulating the exhibition. Beginning with Pine Camp (now Fort Drum, New York) for soldiers, it then traveled in February to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York in November 1943. The exhibition would eventually travel to the Addison Gallery of American Art, Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Gallery, Springfield, Massachusetts; the Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; Carolina Art Association, Gibbes Memorial Art Gallery, Charleston, South Carolina; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee; Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Savannah, Georgia; and the Municipal Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas.

Installation view of Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Installation view of Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Installation view of Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Installation view of Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Installation view of Airacobra (Albright Art Gallery, November 18–December 8, 1942). Image courtesy of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Digital Assets Collection and Archives, Buffalo, New York.

Back to Top