About the Pancho Barnes Archive

The Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive is privately owned. The archive contains photographs, negatives, letters, as well as film, voice recordings, pilot logs, court and legal papers, depositions, bank checks, master recordings of her songs, and other materials documenting the life and times of Pancho Barnes. The good news is that, evidently, Pancho never threw anything away. Despite the fact that some of her personal belongings and all her flying trophies burned in the 1953 fire at the Happy Bottom Riding Club, there remains over 120 linear feet of her personal files. Because Pancho had a secretary most of her life, the Archive more often than not contains both sides of her correspondence (i.e.: letter to Pancho, and her reply).

The Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive is the ‘official’ and best repository for all things Pancho Barnes, and is recognized by the State of California as the Estate of Pancho Barnes! Our ‘short-term’ goal has been and continues to be to preserve, organize and eventually find a suitable institution to place the archive so that it can be protected, conserved and made available for research. Pancho Barnes Enterprises manages all of the rights associated with Pancho Barnes and the Archive, and has entered into many License agreements to use archive materials and the name, image and likeness of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Currently, PBE has several License Agreements in place, including Walt Disney Imagineering, Edwards Air Force Base and the United States Air Force, and most recently granted archive access to Nick Spark/Amanda Pope in creating the amazing new documentary, “The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club.” Please note: Documents, especially letters to Pancho Barnes and other personal papers, signed checks, including correspondence and membership applications for the ‘Happy Bottom Riding Club’ that come up for sale were most probably stolen from this archive shortly after Pancho Barnes passed away in 1975. This material is rightfully the property of the Pancho Barnes Estate, as there is no statute of limitations regarding stolen property. We encourage anyone to come forward with materials that may belong to the Archive – in person or anonymously – or if you know of any materials that you believe may have belonged to Pancho Barnes. We also encourage the donation of Pancho Barnes materials to the Archive as well. Pancho Barnes Enterprises has made it a priority to acquire and reacquire many of Pancho’s personal possessions over the last several years from many sources.

Unfortunately, PBE has had to resort to legal means to either enforce trademarks or to investigate and prosecute to the full extent of the law to recover stolen property belonging to the Pancho Barnes Estate. Our primary interest is in retrieving all aspects of the Archive for historical preservation purposes. Within the decade, it is our goal that all the materials related to Pancho Barnes and her life that are contained in the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive will be placed with a southern California based museum or University. This great American character’s history should not be lost nor improperly dispersed. Coming next: How the archive survived 50 years, hidden in plain sight!

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Dr. Louis F. D'Elia is the custodian of the Estate of Pancho Barnes and a Trustee of the Flight Test Museum Foundation at Edwards Air Force Base.