The Howard Hughes Public Relations Photograph Collection depicts the activities of businessman Howard Hughes from 1930 to 1950. The photographs primarily depict aircraft flown by Hughes or designed by the Hughes Aircraft Company, including the XF-11 reconnaissance plane, the HK-1 Hercules (or "Spruce Goose"), and the Hughes H-1 Racer. The photographs also depict celebrations following Hughes's circumnavigation flight in New York City, New York and Chicago, Illinois in 1938. Lastly, the photographs include Hughes testifying in front of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program in 1947.
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Scope and Contents Note
The Howard Hughes Public Relations Photograph Collection depicts the activities of businessman Howard Hughes from 1930 to 1950. The photographs primarily depict aircraft flown by Hughes or designed by the Hughes Aircraft Company, including the XF-11 reconnaissance plane, the HK-1 Hercules (or "Spruce Goose"), the Hughes H-1 Racer, the Northrup Gamma Racer, the Lockheed 14, the Sikorsky S-43, and Hughes's modified Douglas B-23 bomber. The photographs also depict celebrations following Hughes's circumnavigation flight in New York City, New York and Chicago, Illinois in 1938. Lastly, the photographs include Hughes testifying in front of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program in 1947. The collection was compiled by Vernon C. Olson, who began working for Howard Hughes as an accountant and was eventually promoted to Senior Vice President of both the Hughes Corporation and the Board of Directors for the Summa Corporation.
Collection is open for research. Some collection material has been digitized and is available online.
Materials in this collection may be protected by copyrights and other rights. See Reproductions and Use on the UNLV Special Collections website for more information about reproductions and permissions to publish.
Materials are organized into eight series:
Series I. Northrop Gamma Racer photographs, 1936;
Series II. Hughes HK-1 Hercules photographs, 1945-1947;
Series III. Hughes XF-11 photographs, 1946-1947;
Series IV. Hughes H-1 Racer photographs, 1937;
Series V. Lockheed-14 photographs, 1936-1939;
Series VI. Hearings of the U.S. Senate Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program photographs, 1947;
Series VII. Howard Hughes's around-the-world flight photographs, 1938;
Series VIII. Miscellaneous photographs of aircraft and events, 1930-1950.
Biographical / Historical Note
American businessman Howard Hughes was born in 1905 in Houston, Texas. Hughes's business career began when he gained control of Hughes Tool Company in 1924, at the age of 19, after his father's death. In 1932, he formed Hughes Aircraft as a division of Hughes Tool Company. His company won defense contracts during the Second World War to develop high-speed pursuit and reconnaissance aircraft and communication systems.
Perhaps the most famous of these experimental prototypes was the HK-1 Hercules, better known as the "Spruce Goose" or "Flying Boat," a gargantuan wooden cargo plane that Hughes himself piloted on its brief and only flight of one mile, 70 feet above Long Beach Harbor in 1947. As a result of the failures of the HK-1 program and other prototypes developed by Hughes, he was called to testify before the U.S. Senate's Truman Committee in 1947 to justify use of government money on wasteful defense contracts. In 1953, Hughes turned over ownership of the Hughes Aircraft Company to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Hughes also had a career in the movie business as a director and producer. He directed Two Arabian Nights (1928), Hell's Angels (1930), and The Outlaw (1943). Hughes bought the Hollywood movie studio RKO in 1948.
Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas, Nevada November 27, 1966, and took up residence on the top two floors of the Desert Inn. When asked to vacate his room, he purchased the hotel. At this point in his life, Hughes became increasingly reclusive, and he used his suite in the Desert Inn as the hub of his business ventures for four years. Hughes purchased real estate in Las Vegas and started the Summa Corporation in 1972, a holding company that managed Hughes's remaining investments and primarily developed and managed the Hughes real estate holdings on the west side of the Las Vegas Valley. By 1970, Hughes had purchased $65 million of Las Vegas hotels, casinos, and property, making him the largest single property owner in Nevada at the time. By this point, he controlled approximately 20% of all the hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. His holdings also included approximately 25,000 acres that became the master-planned community of Summerlin, an affluent suburb of Las Vegas.
In November 1970, Hughes secretly left Las Vegas and moved to the Bahamas. Hughes died on April 5, 1976, on a flight from Mexico to Houston, Texas.
Burbank, Jeff. "Howard Hughes." Online Nevada Encyclopedia, July 11, 2011. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/howard-hughes
Vernon C. Olson served as an accountant for Howard Hughes. He began working for Hughes in Culver City, California, but moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1973 to help manage Hughes's hotels. He served as Senior Vice President for the Hughes Corporation and later on the Board of Directors for the Summa Corporation. He retired after working for Hughes for 46 years. Olson had three children with his wife JoAnn. He passed away in Henderson, Nevada on May 30, 2012.
"Vernon Olson Obituary." Las Vegas Review-Journal. May 31, 2012. http://obits.reviewjournal.com/obituaries/lvrj/obituary.aspx?pid=157890374
Howard Hughes Public Relations Photograph Collection, 1930-1950. PH-00373. Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
Materials were donated in 2013 by Vernon C. Olson via Paul and Melinda Osterman.
Materials were processed by Special Collections staff. In 2015, as part of a legacy finding aid conversion project, Lindsay Oden wrote the collection description in compliance with current professional standards.