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Stunning Historical Photos of Graf Zeppelin over Chicago that Completely Stunned the Onlookers, 1929

During its trip around the world in August 1929, the airship Graf Zeppelin LZ 127 flew over Chicago. Airship crews flew low over the city, and the sight mesmerized the crowds. About 5:20 p.m., the magnificent airship appeared in the Loop, floated over the downtown area for 18 minutes, then disappeared in the hazy eastern sky within three minutes after leaving the lakeshore. Some of the spectators came from towns and cities a hundred miles away, filling all the buildings in the Loop and the streets. After rain threatened most of the afternoon, the clouds parted as the Zeppelin appeared. The clouds opened, and the sky cleared briefly while the big ship crossed the Loop. It circled Tribune Tower, swung south to Soldiers’ Field, then north again to Lincoln Park and away across the lake.

As the first glimpses of the Zeppelin were caught, automobile horns began to drown out the cries of onlookers. Railroad locomotives joined in the roar with their steam whistles. Tugboats and larger vessels also sounded their horns on the lake and river. The Zeppelin performed a giant “figure-eight” over Chicago, swinging north and circumnavigating Tribune Tower before passing over Soldier Field, where thousands cheered. One of the most famous flights of the Graf Zeppelin was its round-the-world voyage, covering 21,2500 miles over five legs from Lakehurst to Friedrichshafen, Friedrichshafen to Tokyo, Tokyo to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Lakehurst, and then Lakehurst to Friedrichshafen again.
The flight was the first passenger flight worldwide and was widely covered by the world’s press. William Randolph Hearst, the American newspaper publisher who paid for about half the cost of the flight in exchange for exclusive rights in the United States and Britain, sponsored the trip. Graf Zeppelin flew 590 flights totaling almost 1.7 million kilometers (over 1 million miles). The plane had a crew of 36 and could carry 24 passengers. It was the most famous and longest airship globally when it was built. Using Blau gas as a fuel, it crossed the Pacific Ocean nonstop for the first time and completed the first round-the-world trip by airship.

Graf Zeppelin operated a commercial passenger and mail service between Germany and Brazil between 1928 and 1932, including one to the Arctic. After the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, it was withdrawn from service and scrapped for military aircraft production in 1940.

Below are some stunning historical photos that perfectly captured the excitement of Chicagoans after seeing the Zeppelin in 1929.

#1 View of the Graf Zeppelin flying low over the Chicago skyline.

View of the Graf Zeppelin flying low over the Chicago skyline.

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#2 The Graf Zeppelin viewed at an angle flying over the Loop community area of Chicago.

The Graf Zeppelin viewed at an angle flying over the Loop community area of Chicago.

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#3 An enterprising balloon salesman sells balloons vaguely modeled on the Zeppelin’s shape.

An enterprising balloon salesman sells balloons vaguely modeled on the Zeppelin’s shape.

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#4 View of the Graf Zeppelin at an angle flying over Buckingham Fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park.

View of the Graf Zeppelin at an angle flying over Buckingham Fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Crowds stand in the foreground, and the Chicago skyline is visible in the background.

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#5 The Graf Zeppelin viewed in profile flying over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park in the Loop community area of Chicago.

The Graf Zeppelin viewed in profile flying over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park in the Loop community area of Chicago.

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#6 The Graf Zeppelin viewed in profile flying at a downward angle over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

The Graf Zeppelin viewed in profile flying at a downward angle over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

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#7 View of the Graf Zeppelin at an angle flying over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

View of the Graf Zeppelin at an angle flying over Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

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#8 The Graf Zeppelin flying at a downward angle over Grant Park in The Loop community area of Chicago.

The Graf Zeppelin flying at a downward angle over Grant Park in The Loop community area of Chicago.

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#9 Crowds sitting and standing on a lawn in Chicago’s Grant Park. Buckingham Fountain and buildings are visible in the background.

Crowds sitting and standing on a lawn in Chicago’s Grant Park. Buckingham Fountain and buildings are visible in the background.

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#10 Crowds sitting and standing on a lawn in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Crowds sitting and standing on a lawn in Chicago’s Grant Park.

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#11 The Graf Zeppelin flies over Chicago, Illinois. An airplane is visible below the Zeppelin on the lower left half of the image.

The Graf Zeppelin flies over Chicago, Illinois. An airplane is visible below the Zeppelin on the lower left half of the image.

The Graf Zeppelin, navigated by Dr. Hugo Eckener, flew around the northern hemisphere in August 1929.

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#12

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#13 Airship Graf Zeppelin at its Friedrichshafen Hangar.

Airship Graf Zeppelin at its Friedrichshafen Hangar.

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#14 Graf Zeppelin over Rio de Janeiro in 1930.

Graf Zeppelin over Rio de Janeiro in 1930.

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#15 Flying over Germany, late career

Flying over Germany, late career

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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