William P. and Moya Olsen Lear Papers


William P. and Moya Olsen Lear Papers


The William P. and Moya Olsen Lear Papers documents the extensive and varied career of inventor and businessman William P. Lear, with a smaller focus on the philanthropic and business activities of Moya Olsen Lear. The collection, which dates from 1838 through 2001 (bulk dates 1939-1978), consists of administrative records, correspondence, financial reports, research files, legal records and patent applications, technical reports and drawings, photographs, negatives, scrapbooks, and ephemera illustrating William P. Lear’s interests and inventions, particularly in the realms of navigation and aircraft design, that often were perceived as ground-breaking, innovative, and ahead of their time. The collection is arranged into sixteen series, beginning with one of Lear’s earliest companies and continuing chronologically through his career and past his death as Moya Lear worked to drive his legacy.

Series I. Lear Developments holds two cubic feet of material, including textual and photographic items that provide insight into one of William P. Lear’s earliest companies as well as a small amount of oversize diagrams. Reflected here is Lear Developments’s main focus on aircraft radio development and production, including early patents like the Model L radio compass. Marketed as the Lear-O-Scope, it was the first radio compass designed and meant for non-commercial pilots.

Series II: Lear Avia Inc., at 19 cubic feet, is the second largest component of the collection, even though the company was active a much shorter amount of time than several other later Lear-founded companies. Rebranded in late 1939 from Lear Developments, the company produced several key World War II-era avionic and related products, including clutches, screw jacks, motors, and aircraft navigation and radio equipment and parts. The development of the company’s patent program is clear in the many patent applications present. Some materials shed light on Lear Avia Inc.’s attempt to finalize post-war products for manufacture and production. Included in the series is a substantial amount of oversize technical diagrams that provide documentation on product patent applications, as well as research and technical files.

Series III: Lear, Incorporated contains seven cubic feet of materials which provide only a glance into the company’s 18 years of operations, from 1944 to 1962. Represented here is the company focus on navigational instruments for aircraft, such as automatic direction finders (ADF) and the F-5 autopilot, for which Lear won the 1950 Collier Trophy. The company’s work with wire recorders and home sound systems are present with technical documents and photographs. Also well-represented is WPL's re-design of the Lockheed Lodestar into his desired vision for executive air transport, the Learstar. Less well-represented is the 1962 merger between Siegler Corporation and Lear, Inc. which resulted in Lear, Inc. transforming into Lear Siegler, Inc. Part of this series is also comprised of a moderate amount of oversize materials related to designs for products including patent applications, research and technical files.

Series IV: Swiss American Aviation Corporation offers a brief introduction to the early planning for the SAAC-23, which would become the Learjet Model 23. Just under one cubic foot, it contains concept and logistical materials from 1960 until 1962, when it relocated and rebranded into Lear Jet Corporation.

Series V. Lear Jet Corporation, 1962-1967, holds 12.5 cubic feet plus a small amount of oversize materials. The materials document the development of the Learjet Model 23 and, to a lesser extent, the Model 24. A minimal amount of content is dedicated to the Lear Liner 40. The development, design, and marketing for the 8-track player, cartridges and related components is supported by patent applications and photographic materials as well as correspondence and publicity materials. There is a small quantity of accompanying trade literature as well.

Several companies are not very well-represented in the collection, including Turbo-Lear, Inc. (Series VI.), Leareno Development (Series VII.), William Lear Enterprises (Series VIII.), Lear JeTravel (Series IX), and Titanium West, Inc. (Series X.). Most of these have scant materials and provide very little information about their operations. Of them, Leareno Development is the largest with about .25 cubic feet of textual documents and photographs, and an additional small amount of oversized materials involving administrative, financial, and publicity records that offer a glimpse of the company’s focus on real estate and property development.

Series XI. Lear Motors Corporation showcases one of William P. Lear’s non-aviation endeavors: his 1968-1975 efforts at producing steam-powered vehicles, including an Indianapolis 500 race car, a passenger transit bus, and an automobile. Most well-represented is the steam bus project, with five films and more than 150 photographs, slides and negatives as well as a variety of textual materials and a large amount of oversize documents related to its technical design and publicity. In addition, there are oversize technical illustrations related to both the Lear “Vapordyne” Indy car and the passenger car, and while there a less of these illustrations than the steam bus, they still provide a good look at those projects.

The largest component of the collection at 19.5 cubic feet, Series XII. LearAvia Corporation, features a detailed look into the company's 1968-1985 operations. The company not only produced many avionic products that are well-reflected here, but developed three aircraft: the LearStar 600, the Lear Allegro, and the Lear Fan 2100. Each of these is supported with financial, administrative and technical materials. This series also contains the majority of oversize materials in the collection with a very large amount of technical diagrams related to parts and products developed by the company, as well as to the LearStar 600 and the Lear Allegro, with a small amount on Lear Fan 2100.

Series XIII: Microcom, Inc. is not one of the more well-represented individual companies with just .5 cubic feet of documents and a very small amount of oversize material. There is some overlap within LearAvia Corporation due to its absorption into the company in 1972. The materials primarily focus on the company’s production of the AFC-70, an automatic flight control system.

With 12 cubic feet of material, Series XIV. Lear Fan Limited supports the development, production, flight testing, and quest for FAA certification of the Lear Fan 2100, 1976-1985. Notably, it is one of the only series in the collection where Moya is featured prominently, as she drove the project after William P. Lear’s death. The largest component in this section is the visual materials with over 1400 photographs, 200 negatives, and 1200 slides. Additionally, the technical files are a strong section and include a partial draft to the aircraft’s manual as well as numerous reports and diagrams. There are also a substantial amount of oversize documents related to both the administrative aspect and publicity of the company’s projects.

Although Series XV: Personal holds nearly 17 cubic feet of materials spanning from 1910 to 2001, it neglects to provide a really in-depth look into the private lives of William and Moya Lear. Its focus is still largely professional, although not tied to any particular company. Rather, it supports their philanthropic and social endeavors, as well as focuses largely on recognition they each earned. Not included in the extent listed above is the large amount of oversize documents that also illustrates these aspects of their professional lives. A very small amount of material on extended family is present, primarily clippings about their son, John Lear.

With five cubic feet of materials Series XVI: Related Companies supports the collection with contextual materials mostly from entities that were founded by William P. Lear but lost their direct connection by way of company sales or mergers, from 1961-2000. These include Lear Siegler, Inc., Gates Learjet Corporation, and Static Power, Inc. Each of these offer a glimpse into the company activities, post-merger, or in the case of Static Power, Inc. after it apparently branched out on its own instead of being a subsidiary of Lear Jet Corporation.

Two other organizations are included but have unique relationships. The first, Canadair Limited, is connected via the purchase of the design rights to the LearStar 600. With some re-designs, it became the Canadair Challenger CL-600. This series is primarily clippings about company activities and several reports about the Lear-Canadair relationship, and Canadair’s technical diagrams for the Challenger CL-600. The second and final related company is the Lear Archives, which maintains a direct connection to WPL and his career. Materials focus on research and licensing requests as well as research undertaken by the archivists to track provenance of holdings and provide context.

Note that William P. Lear is abbreviated as WPL and Moya Olsen Lear is abbreviated as MOL throughout the finding aid. Four of Lear’s earliest companies are not represented at all: Quincy Radio Laboratories, Lear Radio Laboratories, Radio Wire and Coil Company, and Lear-Wuerfel, Inc. A later company, Dyna-Lear Inc. (founded in 1968), is also not represented in the collection.

Digitized Materials: A selection of photographic, textual, and audiovisual material has been digitized from the major series in this collection. Additionally, a number of Lear-related artifacts have also been digitized.


1838-2001 (bulk dates 1939-1986)


Lear, Moya Olsen, 1915-2001
Lear, William P. (William Powell), 1902-1978


Most materials are in English, but some materials are in other languages, including Bengali, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, and Spanish. When non-English language materials are present, it is noted on the individual folder.

Rights Holder

The Museum of Flight Archives


Permission to publish material from the William P. and Moya Olsen Lear Papers must be obtained from The Museum of Flight Archives.

Bibliographic Citation

The William P. and Moya Olsen Lear Papers/The Museum of Flight.



Collection Organization

Collection Items

Trophy/Statuette for Crystal Eagle Award, 1986, Aero Club of Northern California to William P. Lear
Part of Crystal Eagle Award given to William P. Lear by the Aero Club of Northern California, 1986. The award is in two pieces: this is the top half, a crystal shaped like an eagle in flight.

Plaque/First Production of 8 Track Player, William Lear, 1968
Plaque constructed out of a tan wood base. On the top of the base is a dark brown wood with a golden metal 8 track player. There is a golden colored plate adhered to the base that has the text, "In recognition and gratitude by the employees of Lear…

Calendar/Moya Lear Memorial, Celebrating a Century
Spiral-bound calendar created by Moya Olsen Lear, likely as a gift for family and friends. White cover with black and white pages. Printed on first page after cover: "The following pages record a few of my memories of the last century for you and…

Gyroscope/Lear Gyroscope Assembly, SBK-8/A24G4A
Gyroscope constructed out of black metal and steel. The main circular form is secured to a rectangular base. There are multiple assembly and handling instructions stenciled in white paint throughout the surface. There are also four cream color…

Amplifier/Lear Amplifier, Type L-102, Autopilot
Amplifier in a black metal rectangular case. The components of the machinery are exposed and are connected by wires and screws. The front of the object has a Lear, Inc. logo in blue, red, and silver and a manufacturer label with the following…

Plaque/The Research Director's Association of Chicago, William Lear, 1970
Entrepreneur of the Year Award given to William P. Lear by the Research Directors' Association of Chicago, May 1970. A paper certificate is mounted under clear acrylic affixed to a wood base. Text: "The Research Directors' Association of Chicago /…

Patch, Occupational/Bill Lear Backpatch
Oval back patch. White background with blue border and lettering: "Bill Lear."

Patch, Occupational/LearAvia Patch
Company patch for "LearAvia," undated. The patch is in the shape of a globe with banner across the middle.

Pin, Lapel/Lear Fan Lapel Pin
Lear Fan lapel pin with butterfly clutch back. The pin is broken; the plane has broken loose from main part.

Badge, Identification/Bill Lear nametag
Black plastic nametag for William P. Lear with engraved white text and metal pin back.Engraved on front: "Bill Lear / Probably the World's Lousiest Copilot."
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