Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

More on the Age of Dirigibles in the Skies Above Pelham

Eighty years ago, all of Pelham was abuzz.  Newspapers throughout the region had reported that the famous German dirigible Hindenburg would be making a "goodwill" sight-seeing flight back and forth over the region with a flight path that would take it directly above Pelham between 2:40 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Friday, October 9, 1936.

The golden age of dirigibles was underway.  The entire region was obsessed with lighter-than-air rigid airships like the Hindenburg and semi-rigid airships like Zeppelins.

Perhaps Pelham's obsession with dirigibles was the result of the proposal in the late 1920s to construct the world's largest airport across the Hutchinson River from Pelham Manor and to build an associated dirigibles landing field on sixty acres of Pelham Manor land to be annexed by New York City.  See Mon., Sep. 28, 2015:  Pelham Manor Narrowly Avoided Becoming Part of the World's Largest Airport.  Whatever the reason, Pelhamites loved every opportunity to ogle the giant behemoths flying overhead.

I have written before about the golden age of dirigibles in the skies above Pelham.  See:  Fri., Sep. 25, 2015:  The Age of Lighter-Than-Air Dirigibles in Pelham During the 1920s and 1930s.  I also have written about the subject of today's posting:  the overflight of the dirigible Hindenburg in the skies above Pelham eighty years ago on October 9, 1936.  See Fri., Apr. 08, 2005:  The Hindenburg Thrilled Pelham Before Its Fiery Crash in 1937.  

On October 9, 1936, only six months before the craft exploded in flames and crashed while docking at the Lakehurst Air Naval Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg flew over Pelham for a few moments shortly before 3:00 p.m.  The "goodwill" flight of the airship was sponsored by The Colonial Beacon Oil Company which serviced the Hindenburg for the trip.  A district manager for the oil company, V.A. Bena, lived in Pelham and kept local newspapers apprised of the plans for the flight.

The Hindenburg took off from Lakehurst early on October 9, 1936.  It flew over Yonkers at about 8:50 a.m., about forty minutes later than originally planned.  From there it was scheduled to fly over Irvington, the Tarrytowns, Ossining, and Peekskill.  From there the dirigible was to cut across the countryside to Danbury, Waterbury and other cities up the coast to Boston which it was scheduled to reach at 11:15 a.m.  

The Hindenburg passed over Pelham on the return trip.  By then, the ship was closer to its original schedule, running only about fifteen minutes late.  Returning down Long Island Sound it was scheduled to fly over Greenwich at 2:20 p.m., Port Chester at 2:25 p.m., Mamaroneck at 2:35 p.m., New Rochelle 2:40 p.m., Pelham a few moments later, and Mount Vernon at 2:45 p.m.

A few moments before 3:00 p.m. the Hindenburg flew very low over part of Pelham and the northern section of Mount Vernon.  Shortly afterward the Hindenburg turned toward Lakehurst where it was scheduled to take on mail and passengers, then depart on the "last North Atlantic crossing of the season."

"The Hindenburg should look something like
this to Mount Vernon citizens when it flies over
the city tomorrow.  Hindenburg Expected to be
Visible in Mount Vernon Spectators About
2:45 P.M. -- Ship Will Include Boston in Eastern Tour."
The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 8,
1936, p. 13, cols. 2-3.  NOTE:  Click on Image
to Enlarge.

"Giant German Dirigible Schedules County Flight
Hindenburg Expected to Be Visible to Mount Vernon Spectators About 2:45 P.M. -- Ship Will Include Boston in Eastern Tour

(Special To The Daily Argus)

WHITE PLAINS, Oct. 8 -- Subject to weather and other operating conditions, the point-to-point schedule of the Hindenburg on her first sight-seeing flight tomorrow over Westchester and other points in the East was announced today by V. A. Bena, Pelham, district manager of the oil company servicing the giant dirigible which has arranged the tour.

The Zeppelin will first contact Westchester after taking off at Lakehurst at 7 o'clock when sighted at Yonkers approximately at 8:10 A.M., Irvington at 8:15, the Tarrytowns at 8:20, Ossining at 8:25 and Peekskill at 8:35 will be other vantage points to see the huge lighter-than-air craft in the morning.

From Peekskill the Hindenburg will cut across country over Danbury, Waterbury and other eastern points to Boston, which it is expected to reach at 11:15.  Returning down Long Island Sound it should be sighted at Greenwich at about 2:20 P.M.; Port Chester 2:25; Mamaroneck 2:35; New Rochelle 2:40, and Mount Vernon 2:45.

Would-be spectators are advised to allow leeway of perhaps 15 minutes on either side of the scheduled time mentioned above.

Following the good-will flight the Hindenburg will return to Lakehurst where mail and passengers for Europe will be taken abroad for a late departure tomorrow night on the last North Atlantic crossing of the season."

Source:  Giant German Dirigible Schedules County Flight -- Hindenburg Expected to Be Visible to Mount Vernon Spectators About 2:45 P.M. -- Ship Will Include Boston in Eastern Tour, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 8, 1936, p. 13, cols. 2-3.  

The Hindenburg Above Yonkers on October 9, 1936.
The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 9, 1936,
p. 1, cols. 2-4.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

"Heads Up!  It's the Hindenburg -- Dirigible Skims Roofs in Yonkers; Due Here This P.M.

YONKERS.  Oct. 9. -- The German Zeppelin Hindenburg sailed up the lower Hudson River Valley this morning from Yonkers to Peekskill and then turned inland for a curse over New England.  It will return over the Long Island side of Westchester this afternoon.

The Zep was about 40 minutes behind time on its cruise and is expected to cross into the county from Greenwich about 2:45.  It will proceed over Rye, Mamaroneck, Harrison, New Rochelle, Pelham, and Mount Vernon and pass over the Bronx on its way back to Lakehurst.

Passing over Yonkers at 8:50 A.M., the dirigible with a party of commercial men aboard headed upstream over Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington, the Tarrytowns, Ossining and Peekskill.  Then it turned toward Danbury, Conn.

The dirigible is shown above barely skimming the tops of buildings in Yonkers, its first call in the county.

H. Edward Hildebrand, 133 Douglas Place, Mount Vernon, was a passenger aboard the Zeppelin during its flight today."

Source:  Heads Up!  It's the Hindenburg -- Dirigible Skims Roofs in Yonkers; Due Here This P.M., The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 9, 1936, p. 1, cols. 2-4.  

"Citizens Crane Necks in Vain To Catch Glimpse of Dirigible

All but the most alert of Mount Vernon inhabitants will probably have to go to Lakehurst, N.J., after all if they want to see the German Zeppelin Hindenburg.

Yesterday the huge craft was scheduled to pass over this city.  It was making a cruise of New England, Westchester and Long Island which began with a sail up the lower Hudson River Valley at Yonkers.  

Just a minute or so before 3 P.M., the big dirigible was sighted over the northwest corner of the city.  For about two minutes the following filled the air in a few remote sectors.

'There it is! . . . where? . . . Over behind that big building . . . Oh, uh-ya just missed it . . . Now watch that spot behind the tree . . . For Gosh sakes, don't look away . . . Aw, ya missed it again! . . . Now, it might come up behind the Lighting Company . . . is that it? . . . No, that's an airplane, ya dope . . . Aw.  Gee . . . '  

Those fortunate enough to be looking up at the right second saw the giant Zeppelin flying low, but it was barely visible in the downtown section.

The craft passed out over the Sound and cut across a corner of the Bronx on the way back to Lakehurst."

Source:  Citizens Crane Necks in Vain To Catch Glimpse of Dirigible, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 10, 1936, p. 2, cols. 6-7.

The Explosion of The Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New
Jersey on May 6, 1937.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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