From Italy to the Americas: Italo Balbo’s 1930 and 1933 Seaplane Squadrons
The Italian Minister of Aviation Italo Balbo planned two Atlantic crossings by squadrons of Savoia-Marchetti seaplanes to celebrate the Fascist air force and mark the anniversary of the Fascist revolution. After successfully flying to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1930, Balbo led another larger squadron in a more ambitious flight from Rome to the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and back. Hailed as monumental feats of organization and engineering, these transatlantic crossings were used by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to generate excitement for Italy’s technological achievements, promote good will for the regime in the Americas, and demonstrate the power and reach of his Fascist government.
A wide range of printed ephemera, from posters, postcards, pamphlets, stickers, and even chocolate bar wrappers and cigarette cartons, were produced to commemorate the events and inspire national pride. Imagery evoking the glories of ancient Rome—the fascio (a bound bundle of rods attached to an axe head), busts of Mussolini, and monumental statuary inspired by classical antiquity—were combined with modern airships to foster the belief in a rebirth of Roman greatness under Fascist leadership.