Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas departing Newark Airport with Zuni fetishes

Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964)
Gelatin silver print, 1934
Rare Books and Special Collections, Boatwright Memorial Library, The University of Richmond, Virginia, Carl Van Vechten–Mark Lutz Collection
Courtesy Carl Van Vechten Trust

In 1934 Carl Van Vechten convinced Stein and Toklas to fly for the first time in order to be able to see Four Saints in Three Acts in Chicago. Stein had never seen the opera performed. The two women were anxious about flying, so Van Vechten accompanied them and gave each a small Zuni fetish. They left New York for their trip brandishing these good luck charms. Stein loved flying over what she called the “cubist landscape of the Midwest” and from then on flew often to get from city to city while touring. Stein said that air travel afforded her time to write because the noise of the plane’s engines drowned out any possibility of conversation.