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100 Years of Qantas

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Qantas Airways celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020, a significant milestone for one of the world’s oldest airlines. In a country of vast distances and relative global isolation, Qantas has played an important role in advancing our business and professional connections, supporting and stimulating Australian's love of travel, and enticing international visitors to experience the beauty and uniqueness of Australia’s natural and cultural landscape.

The airline was established in the remote Queensland towns of Winton and Longreach when former Australian Flying Corps lieutenants Wilmot Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness recognised the need to improve communication and transport over the vast distances and often impassable roads in the outback. With seed funding raised by grazier Fergus McMaster, they registered the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (Q.A.N.T.A.S) on 16 November 1920.

Over the next hundred years the company expanded from joy flights, airmail and charter services in rural Queensland to become Australia’s largest domestic and international passenger, parcel and freight service.

The Powerhouse Museum reflects on the history of Qantas through a collection of aircraft models, cabin crew uniforms and travel posters.

Used as promotional gifts and for marketing in airline offices and travel agencies, Qantas aircraft models showcased the latest innovations in aviation technology and design, playing an important role in animating people’s desire to travel by air.

Airline cabin crew are the public face of Qantas. Their uniforms express brand identity and values and ensure that the crew look professional and capable. There have been ten major changes of Qantas uniform design, ranging from the military look of the 1940s and the use of the colourful ‘flower power’ print of Italian designer Emilio Pucci (1974–85) to one of the most popular and enduring styles created by Peter Morrissey (2003–16) featuring the Wirriyarra textile design by Aboriginal-owned agency Balarinji.

The Qantas uniforms are complemented by a unique collection of 42 Barbie and Ken dolls wearing Qantas cabin crew uniforms ranging in date from the 1920s to 2009. These miniaturised handmade uniforms were a labour of love by John Willmott-Potts, a former Qantas cook and flight steward who spent 24 years with the company. Responding to the Willmott-Potts collection, Martin Grant, who worked on the 2015 Qantas uniform, also created two doll-sized uniforms featuring his latest designs.

Displayed in travel agencies and airline offices, Qantas travel posters were intended to convey to the public air travel's increasing availability as a fast, safe, convenient and increasingly affordable mode of transport to familial and exotic destinations around the world.

Qantas worked with a talented range of commercial artists and graphic designers, including Harry Rogers who created many poster series between the 1950s and ’70s, such as his whimsical collection of smiling animal portraits.

Designers were also tasked with creating posters that captured the imagination of international visitors. One of Australia's leading mid-20th century commercial artists Douglas Annand produced a striking image featuring the Australian native Xanthorrhoea plant, more commonly referred to as a 'grass tree'.