December 22. On this day in 1933 KLM’s ‘De Pelikaan’ set a world speed record. After a flight of 4 days, 4 hours and 40 minutes, KLM’s Fokker F.XVIII, nicknamed ‘De Pelikaan’, landed at the airport of Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. The aircraft was filled with Christmas letters and packages, but more importantly, set a new speed record in aviation history.
Less than a year before, it took the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) almost nine days to travel from Amsterdam to Batavia (present Jakarta). When ‘De Pelikaan’ returned to Amsterdam, some 20.000 people welcomed the aircraft and the four crew members – who received a chivalric order for their remarkable performance. To mark the speed record, Vlisco produced a commemorative cloth.
There are more commemorative cloths in the Vlisco-archive, highlighting every Dutch record flight. Many of these speed-, distance- and height trials took place in the 1930s, a decade in which the civil aviation made sensational developments. But after the Second World War, record flights shifted from civil aviation to the military aviation. As a result, Vlisco stopped making this type of commemorative cloth. For example, there is no commemorative cloth for the U.S. Air Force Bell X-1 flight on October, 14, 1947, when the first manned aeroplane exceeded the speed of sound.
Almost 36 years after KLM flew from Amsterdam to Batavia in nearly 5 days, something remarkable happened: the Apollo 11 flew Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon (travelling 384.400 kilometres). On July 20, 1969, Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, an event that was witnessed on television by more than 500 million people around the world. For this historic moment, Vlisco made a commemorative cloth.
By just looking at the commemorative cloths in de Vlisco-archive, you see how the world changed during the 20th century, from the speed record flights era to the era of Space Race. And Vlisco also changed: in the early 1990s they made their last commemorative cloth, ending a hundred-year-old tradition. But some things never seem to change, such as people’s fascination for aviation. Vlisco-designer Cor van den Boogaard often daydreams, while looking out his window. Any time he spots an aeroplane in the sky, he still considers it a thrilling sight. This inspired him to design the 2017 wax-print A2252. Aircrafts are often featured in Vlisco’s wax-prints and Java-prints. For example in 2007, when Marjan de Groot designed A0970, entitled ‘Sabena aircraft’.