It was on or around this day in 1922 that a pilot wrote the first skywriting message in the United States.

A Royal Air Force captain, Cyril Turner, flew over Times Square in New York and wrote “Hello USA Call Vanderbilt 7200.”

That was a phone number at a hotel where a tobacco company executive was staying.

Turner and his colleague John Savage wanted to convince the guy to support skywriting as an exciting new method… of advertising.

It worked: the switchboard at the hotel reportedly took 47,000 phone calls in just three hours after the skywriting went up.

Now if you’re wondering why two guys from the British Royal Air Force were the ones making this pitch, the technique of putting those cloudy shapes in the sky was something pilots used during World War I.

They could send messages to troops elsewhere in the field, or, of course, as a smokescreen.

But after 1922 the military application became one of the biggest things in advertising.

Some of the largest companies in the world hired pilots to cast their messages into the air in city after city.

Skywriting fell out of favor when TV took hold; companies didn’t really need people to stop what they were doing and look up at ads in the sky if they were already looking at screens, watching shows.

It’s still possible to hire a skywriter if you really, really want to.

But if your big idea is to bring a bigwig to a New York hotel and wow them with calls from the switchboard, you may need to rethink that.

Today in 2019, fans at a Hershey Bears’ tossed stuffed animals onto the ice after the team’s first goal, a tradition.

They tossed 45,650 of them, which set a world record, but also delayed the game for 40 extra minutes.

How Skywriting Works (How Stuff Works)

Watch: Hershey Bears’ teddy bear toss shatters world record as 45,650 stuffed animals hit the ice for charity (The Patriot-News)

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Photo by Matt Niemi via Flickr/Creative Commons