The tradition of the “short snorter” is believed to have begun with Alaskan bush flyers in the 1920’s before spreading to military and commercial aviation. During World War II short snorters were signed by flight crews and conveyed good luck to soldiers crossing the Atlantic. Friends would take the local currency and sign each other's bills creating a "keepsake of your buddy's signatures". The name comes from the tradition that if you signed a short snorter and that person could not produce it upon request, they owed you a dollar or a drink (a “short snort”), or a drink that was less than a full shot, as alcohol and aviators did not mix well.
This short snorter was donated to the Museum by the Distinguished Flying Cross Society (DFC) and is remarkably well preserved for its age. Though quite yellowed along the edges where the bills have been taped together, it is a rather long roll which includes a variety of bills from many countries. The highlighted image is a 1 Japanese Yen banknote (Takeuchi Sukuni), with very clear signatures of Joe Foss and Charles Lindbergh. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 Lindbergh offered to reactivate his Colonel's commission but the Roosevelt administration refused. Rebuffed, Lindbergh turned to the private sector but only Henry Ford would offer Lindbergh an advisory position to help in the transition of Ford Motor Company's production lines to outputting bombers rather than cars. If you look closely at the green bank note just below the Japanese yen, you can clearly see that someone has written the words “Green Island” on the following note. Green Island, NY was once home to a Ford Motor Company manufacturing plant. There is also a Green Island off the coast of Australia in the South Pacific where Lindbergh was (doubtfully Green Island specifically) in the spring of 1944, teaching Corsair pilots how to dramatically decrease their plane's fuel consumption and increase the range of their missions.
These are the interesting types of correlations we get to try to piece together many years after the fact. There numerous other signatures on the snorter, doubtless with their own fascinating stories to tell but we may never know. As a collectible, most short snorters are not considered especially valuable as they are usually heavily worn and generally the names are unknown. A short snorter signed by a famous person will add value to the bank note. Short snorters frequently sell on eBay and at other auction venues. Depending on your perspective, a snorter can be worthless or priceless.
View more from our Curatorial Collection on Flickr.