Fascinated by aviation since early childhood, Robert Edward Shaw’s interest was further sparked in the spring of 1962, when the 14-year-old pushed himself through the crowds of the ‘Salute to the Astronauts and Project Mercury Team’ ticker-tape parade down Broadway to shake the hand of Alan Shepard. Building models from scratch; studying every kind of aircraft, rocket, satellite, and experimental aircraft he could learn about; and writing to every astronaut, test pilot, rocket scientist, and engineer that he could think of to ask questions and request autographs, Shaw’s interest had become a full-fledged obsession. (He even named his daughter Kelly after rocket scientist Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson, head of Lockheed Aircrafts ‘Skunk Works,’ responsible for the SR-71 Blackbird).
After studying Industrial and Interior Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Shaw joined the Army in hopes of achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. Rejected from the flight school because of corrective lenses, he was instead trained for 81 mm mortar and sent to Cu Chi Vietnam just before the Tet Offensive in 1968. Suffering major injuries from flying shrapnel deep in the war-zone jungle, Shaw was awarded three purple hearts upon his return home. He resumed his studies at the School of Visual Arts, attended Cooper Union for a year, and began what would become a celebrated design career—sought after for work with Details Magazine, Interior Design Magazine, and Annie Liebovitz, among many others. But despite all of his accomplishments, nothing held his interest or brought him the happiness that his space collection did.
Diagnosed with cancer from his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam, Shaw passed away in 1994, leaving what remained of his collection to his loving family. Over three decades, he amassed a remarkable assortment of space and aviation items that span a lifetime—from the space-themed toys and trading cards that captured a generation of imaginations in the 1950s and -60s, to key signed pieces from some of the biggest names in space history. RR Auction and the family of Robert Shaw are pleased to offer these items for the first time, hoping that others may gain the same joy from them that Robert Shaw did as he lovingly collected each piece.