What Happened to the Original Spruce Goose Records, Drawings, & Photos?

Allen Herkamp, Collections Volunteer

In 1992, the Goose flew from its nest in Long Beach, California. After 45 years, the Hughes Flying Boat, also known as the Spruce Goose, was again upon the water to migrate north to its new home at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

Hundreds of boxes containing records, reports, drawings, photos, film, tools, and equipment for the Goose came with the aircraft. Unfortunately, many of the artifacts were damaged or destroyed by moisture, heat, and rodents after 23 years of storage in filbert barns and storage trailers. There is some history that was lost forever!

The official Hughes Aircraft Company photographs of the construction of the Spruce Goose were the first to be reviewed and catalogued. All 7,065 photos are unique. Although an index of the photos came with the collection, many photos were not identified or titled in the index. This led to a search-and-find exercise in the Flying Boat itself to identify the content of the photos. A significant problem existed with this practice, however. After many years of technology updates and testing post-flight, some of those original photos from the 1940s and ‘50s became unidentifiable.

Next came the many boxes containing blueprints of the HFB. These were organized and placed in filing cabinets but have not been digitized. In approximately 400 linear feet are blueprints and thousands of original engineering drawings.

Approximately two-thirds of the engineering drawings, amounting to more than 3,200 pieces, have been inventoried and categorized. Among these are some original conceptual drawings that Kaiser and Hughes staff sketched out in 1942. Drawings with five, six, seven, eight and sixteen engines, twin hull, single hull, and twin boom versions exist. Many of these drawings are superb works of art. The drafters’ perspective drawings are as clear as a black and white photo!

One priceless drawing is the original August 1942 Kaiser concept of a proposed troop carrier. This one-of-a-kind drawing was not damaged even though it was stored with other documents that succumbed to rodent damage.

Many of the HAC reports have been digitized and catalogued. They occupy approximately 100 linear feet of filing cabinet space. It is in these reports and drawings that the true ideas, concepts and plans for the HFB can be found.

There are several boxes of 8-, 16-, and 35mm film, micro-film, and micro-fiche that remain in storage. Some of the film canisters are labeled “First Flight of the HFB” and “Hell’s Angels.” It is time to save and preserve these resources before they are lost forever! If you wish to donate your skills, time, or funds to help save and preserve the HAC Archives, please contact the EASM Collections Department.


Got something to say? We want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

Bruce Bothwell

I want to thank the collections people for all their hard work. Without their dedication and hard work these historic files would have been destroyed or lost to the so-called rodents. I'm sure thousands of hours have been spent in organizing and storing these special documents. Remember other famous museums have full time staff that do the cataloging and storing, collections is made up of volunteers.
Thank You

Gary Sohn (docent in Evergreen Museum)

Great article from Collections! I hope more people read this and help our Collections department to raise funds to work on the thousands of files, pictures and documents that still have not been scanned and saved. PLEASE HELP US SAVE THESE RARE DOCUMENTS for future people to enjoy.

Dennis Lee

I second Bruce's and Gary's comments above. I worked in collections for several months and fully understand the hard work, carefully done, on these files for many years. It is a mammoth undertaking and they need all the help they can get. This is truely a unique, one of a kind, archive that must be preserved and made available to researchers.

Howard Butcher

The collections department have done yeoman's work over several years to document and preserve the design and construction history of the H-4. I have been lucky enough to continue my research at the Evergreen facility several years ago, and will hopefully return (post pandemic) to complete a most intriguing find in the storied history of this most unique aircraft.

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