FAQ 2 : Was DH88 Comet G-ACSP named “Black Magic” after the chocolates?
FAQ 2 : Was The DH88 Comet “Black Magic” named after the Black Magic Chocolates.
No, there is absolutely no evidence at all that this iconic aircraft had the name chosen because of the chocolates or that the makers, Rowntree’s, were a sponsor. It is tempting, and seemingly obvious that this should be the case, because the then Yorkshire company Rowntree’s launched Black Magic chocolates in 1933, the year before the Great Air Race of 1934 for which the DH88 Comets were built. Early boxes were very expensive and came in prized, decorated boxes, aimed at wealthy buyers as a luxury item.
However, in 1933, due to financial difficulties, Rowntree’s produced a more affordable box that would have mass-market appeal. As Amy and Jim Mollison were popularly known as “The Sweethearts of the Air” and attracted huge interest, it would have been a huge advertising coup, and profitable for the sometime cash-strapped pair, to have a commercial association with this product. Perhaps the flights of G-ACSP were too early.
In 1936, well after “Black Magic” had been sold to the Portuguese Army Air Force, Rowntree’s started a series of iconic advertisements where young women were pictured writing letters to their sweethearts from whom they had received a box of Black Magic chocolates. These boosted sales enormously and this type of advert continued for a long time. But the question remains as to why DH88 Comet G-ACSP was called “Black Magic” and who choose the name. It was probably Jim and Amy themselves. The song “That Old Black Magic” was not published until 1942 so no inspiration there either.
We know that Black Magic, was flown as E-1 by De Havilland for trials in just primer. Jim and Amy flew it to Mildenhall in the black colour but with no name on the side but with the De Haviland Comet “stripe” for the start of the MacRobertson Air Race in October 1934. The name was sign written the day before the race, a highly skilled piece of work. It was very common, and indeed a habit of Jim and Amy (and many other pilots) to name their aircraft though not usually for a sponsor.
Work by Guy Inchbald, a member of the Comet Racer Project Facebook Group, has produced an exact computer plotted version of the name on the aircraft from photos of the time, as no current font matches it. The font on the chocolate boxes was invariably in capital letters and even modern versions do not match this style. It does not make much marketing sense to represent your sponsors’ product with the wrong logo! The conclusion must be that there is no link, and there is not a single research source, photograph, advert or any reference to this notion.