A brown leather cap, worn by famed aviator Amelia Earhart during her record-breaking flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, has sold for $825,000, according to the Heritage Auctions website. The leather helmet was expected to sell at around $80,000, according to Sana Noor Haq of CNN, but on Saturday, an unnamed buyer purchased the cap at nearly ten times the amount.
Heritage Auctions president Chris Ivy tells CNN in a statement that one of the highlights of the item is that it is easily identifiable in images of Earhart. “The cap has an amazing, stirring story to tell. And not only does it have outstanding provenance, but irrefutable photo matching as well.”
In 1928 Earhart became the first woman to be a transatlantic passenger. She would fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic in 1932. Five years later, while trying to break the record for the first woman to fly around the world, Earhart, along with fellow navigator Fred Noonan, disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean.
Anthony Twiggs, a 67-year-old retired photographer in Minnesota, put the helmet up for auction after experts confirmed its authenticity, reports Laurie Gwen Shapiro of the New York Times. He had inherited the artifact 20 years ago following the death of his mother, Ellie Brookhart, who had claimed she got it from a friend in 1929 following the first Women’s National Air Derby in Cleveland, Ohio, in which Earhart finished third.
The pilot was talking with reporters after the race when a boy who had a crush on Brookhart spotted the cap on the ground. He presented the leather helmet—with the name “A. Earhart” printed on the inside—to Twiggs’ mother in an attempt to impress her.
Twiggs says his mother was more interested in the hat, however, than the young man. “My mother kept it for Amelia,” he tells the New York Times. “She thought it was the neatest thing.”
For the next 90 years, the cap was kept in a plastic bag in a closet in Brookhart’s home, where she would bring it out occasionally over the years to show her four children. Soon after his mother’s death, Twiggs tried to interest museums and collectors in acquiring it. However, no one—including an expert with the “Antiques Roadshow”—believed the story without corroboration, per the Times.
Now 67, Twiggs sent photos to John Robinson of Resolution Photomatching to verify the flying cap’s authenticity. After comparing images of Earhart wearing the hat with current shots of the artifact, Robinson confirmed the item belonged to the pilot. Creasing and puckering on the helmet’s front and sides lined up perfectly, as well as distinctive wear on the trim along the earflaps of the helmet.
“It’s unique of a piece as there is,” he tells the New York Times.
Twiggs says he is even more excited that the cap has been authenticated and his mother’s story has finally been deemed believable.
“It was never about that boy she wouldn’t even name,” Mr. Twiggs tells the New York Times. “He didn’t impress her that much, but the helmet did.”