Junior Birdmen of America


"Today Pilot of Models - Tomorrow's Model Pilots"

Officially launched on April 15, 1934 in every William Randolph Hearst-owned newspaper in America (17 at the time) the Junior Birdmen of America (JBA) program was open to all  boys and girls with an interest in aviation. In the early 1930's airplane mania was sweeping across America. Many clubs were formed, supporting the model-airplane industry and teaching the youth of America the basics of flight. The Junior Birdmen of America is by far the most remembered club.

For a mere 10 cents, you too could have joined the Junior Birdmen of America. By return mail you would have received your membership pin, membership card and details for organizing your own Flight Squadron.

Membership was open to all boys and girls from 10 through 21, living in the United States and its territorial possessions, who sent in the required dime to one of the many Hearst-owned major city newspapers across America. All who joined in the early days of the program received a special membership card with "Charter Member" stamped on it. Those who joined between the age 10-15 were Group "B" members and received a silver membership pin and silver membership card. Group "A" members; 16 -21 years old received a gold membership pin and gold membership card.

The program was delivered through the newspaper with daily articles and special Sunday articles. Areas covered included basic aviation lessons, local contests & national contests, flying articles by prominent fliers, annual banquets, "Popular Pilot" polls, trips to airports and airplane factories, and interviews with people of interest. Weekly radio shows for the Junior Birdmen were also popular. Later,  10 cent handbooks were published and sent through the mail.

The program had 2 eras; 1934 until August 1937 when it was owned and controlled by the Hearst Newspaper franchise, and post August 1937 when the program became independent of the newspaper.


It is thought that this pin with "Hearst Newspapers" on the wings is older than pins without words on the wings.

A Group "B" silver pin with "Hearst Newspapers" on wings


Group "B" silver Junior Birdmen of America membership pin.

Having the proper age-level pin was a serious concern. Members were admonished that if they won a local contest and could not prove their age, they would forfeit their prizes.

In the beginning  the ranks were as follows; for the first 6 months of membership, participants were known as "Fledglings". After 6 months members could take a written test for the "Eagle" rank. Seven questions had to be answered correctly to pass. After another 6 months a written test could be taken for the "Ace" rank.

Later, the Eagle rank could be achieved just 3 months after joining (and passing the written test). The Ace rank regulations were changed; the written test was dropped and the member had to place 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th in airplane model building in an official JBA event - only held twice a year. The Ace rank was a red, white and blue bar with ACE and silver stars on it.

Commander bars were an elected position, and it is likely that the Captain bar was too.

Junior Birdmen of America pin with Eagle rank

Junior Birdmen of America pin with Captain bar

Junior Birdmen of America pin with Commander bar

Pledge of the Junior Birdmen

The Pledge of the Junior Birdmen 

With our eyes on the skies and our hands on our hearts, we solemnly pledge ourselves to be faithful to friends, firm against foes, useful and helpful in our lives, honorable in all our acts and ever loyal to the land that nurtures us, our United States.

With all the courage we possess and all the skills we shall acquire we pledge ourselves to defend our country and protect our liberties.

With high appreciation of our obligation to those who came before us and those who shall come after us we pledge ourselves to maintain the freedom and fraternity, the enlightenment and tolerances, the equal rights and equal justices which laws make our nation great and our people happy.

We value the friendship ad fellowship of all good citizens, and pledge ourselves to deserve their confidence and approval.

This pledge is freely made and will be faithfully kept.



Junior Birdmen of America sweater emblem is 8" long on washable blue felt. Sold for 25 cents.


Gold "Group A" membership Card issued from the Chicago Herald-Examiner Wing

This image, with two pins and gridlines, clearly shows there are two sizes to the pin.

Silver "Group B" membership card from the New York American Wing

All who joined were organized under "wings" of their local Hearst-owned newspaper


The "William Randolph Hearst" trophy was awarded to the winner of the National Junior Birdmen "All American" indoor model plane contest winner yearly.

This undated Junior Birdmen Air Course booklet was a reprint of all the lessons printed in the Sunday edition.

First editions of the handbooks were launched

 on December 1, 1934. This notice is from 1935

The Junior Birdman Institute seal of approvals  were awarded only to those model building kits that they approved of. Each seal of approval carried a number. This one is #16.

Officially in August, 1937 the Hearst Newspaper empire no longer ran the Junior Birdmen of America program. With offices in the R.C.A. building in Rockefeller Center, New York prominent aviation and officials such as Capt. E.V. Rickenbacker, the Junior Birdmen of America took flight. Membership was 25 cents. The program no longer had the daily and weekly publication in the Hearst newspapers. Instead, a monthly magazine was produced.

There were 578,321 members in 1937

Scholarship offered by United Air Lines

pamphlet of Model Plane Products, tested and approved by the Junior Birdmen Institute - from the second era of the JBA

Interest in aviation clubs declined around 1938, and at least once source notes that the Junior Birdmen group was defunct in 1939 - although the term Junior Birdmen lives on as a nickname for all novice pilots and as a rousing campfire song known to many young summer campers.