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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Made in America: 1937

Made in America: 1937

June 9, 1937. "Congress sees model of new proposed American-designed dirigible. Rep. Edward A. Kenney (right) of New Jersey, Chairman of the House Interstate Commerce Committee, viewing a model of a new American designed dirigible displayed at the Capitol today. Roland B. Respess, President of the Respess Aeronautical Engineering Corp., is pointing out the features of the ship to the House member. The House Interstate Subcommittee is hearing the witness on a bill recently introduced to authorize the loan of $12 million for constructing two eight-million-cubic-foot dirigible airships, a large American airship plane, and Atlantic operating terminal with a view toward establishing twice-a-week Trans-Atlantic airship service." Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Yeah, baby . . .


THAT'S what I'm talkin' about.

Las Vegas


Etymology is not destiny; that "dirigible" means "steerable" (or "directable" maybe?) rather than "rigid" does not change the fact that a blimp is NOT properly called "a dirigible" in modern English.

["Dirigible" is hardly modern English -- it's as antiquated as "aeroplane" or "omnibus." Back in the age of airships when it was in currency, the word was, for the most part, properly used. It's the airship fanbois of the modern era who got things mixed up. - Dave]

No Smoking

Do you suppose the No Smoking sign in the back is a safety measure intended to protect the honorable members of the committee in the event of hydrogen leaks?

Have a seat.

I can see why Rep. Kenney was made chairman of the committee.

He's A-Ok...

Mr. Kenny's choice of footwear is protected because he is wearing them between Decoration Day and Labor Day. The unofficial White Shoe Season.

New form of suspension

They've discovered a new way to keep dirigibles in the air -- bentwood chairs!

The value of Shorpy

For getting us (including myself) right on the definition of dirigible. My day isn't complete without my Shorpy. Thanks Dave.

Sometimes a dirigible

is just a dirigible.

Excellent Detail

Beneath it are detailed scale models of the chairs that will be used to support it once it takes flight.


Amazing that this was still pursued regardless of the Hindenburg. All but one of the Navy's post-WWI airships were lost in foul weather, including the USS Shenandoah. I've got a small piece of its fabric in my desk right now. USS Akron, Shenandoah, and Macon all went down, and only the USS Los Angeles survived to see dismantlement in '39.

Innovative Design

The patent application for Respess's airship indicates that he was proposing a design to prevent the type of structural failure that had caused the crashes of several earlier US airships (USS Akron, Macon, Shenandoah). He had a number of interesting ideas about control systems and other features that would have brought airships up to late-1930s standards. But the Hindenburg was the nail in the coffin of any possible development of this thinking. His trip to DC with this model was probably a last-ditch effort.

The real question

is whether Rep. Edward A. Kenney of New Jersey, Chairman of the House Interstate Commerce Committee, really wanted history to remember him for wearing white shoes.

Several hundred man-hours of work,

...and they stand it on the back of a few chairs? Hmmm, built with tax dollars, no doubt.

Full of It

Were they going to use all the "hot air" from Congress to fill it up?

Not Quite, Dave

Originally, "dirigible" DID mean "steerable," irrespective of the nature of the airframe. But, over time, its usage changed to mean an airship with a rigid internal skeleton (as in a Zeppelin), as opposed to an airship with no internal framework (Blimp). Both types of craft were indeed steerable, but the usage lost that distinction.

[It may be common usage, but "dirigible" does not mean "rigid airship." It's a mistaken notion resulting from confusion over the similarity of the words "rigid" and "dirigible." Which still means "steerable." The only term properly used to refer to rigid airships is "rigid airship." - Dave]

Not a blimp

Dirigibles are different than blimps. Goodyear and most of those balloons you see flying over stadiums are blimps, not dirigibles.

[Not so. Dirigibles (steerable airships) include blimps. - Dave]

Opportunity Knocks

This was a month after the Hindenburg blew up.


I can't say they were a total flop. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company seems to be happy with theirs.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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