On the second floor of a nondescript office building in downtown Brooklyn, behind a plain wooden door at the end of the hall, you’ll find one of the world’s most wonderful artifacts of exploration and adventure.
The Fliers and Explorers Globe is a standard schoolroom model globe. But it’s been signed by an incredible number of famous aviators and explorers in modern history. From Amelia Earhart to Charles Lindbergh to Sir Edmund Hillary, the heroes not only signed their names but also drew their routes upon the globe.
Housed in the American Geographical Society’s Brooklyn office, the precious object is covered in black scribbles marking dozens of landmarks of exploration. Among the names are the first person to fly a human-powered aircraft; the first to reach the North and South Poles; the first to fly all the way around the world in a dirigible, and a balloon; and explorers who walked the ocean floor at record depths. The first woman to summit Mt. Everest and the first woman in space have autographed the globe, alongside famous astronaut firsts like Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.
The tradition of signing the globe originated in 1929 with John H. Finley, then both president of the American Geographical Society and editor-in-chief of The New York Times. Often Finley himself would go down to the docks of Lower Manhattan to personally greet the returning adventurers and have them trace out their routes across the Earth.
There are currently 82 signers on the irreplaceable globe, and counting. The tradition is ongoing, with a new explorer added by the society every year.