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Flyover: 1928

"Graf Zeppelin over Capitol." The German airship on its visit to Washington in October 1928.  National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.

"Graf Zeppelin over Capitol." The German airship on its visit to Washington in October 1928. National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.


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The Graf

What a beautiful ship. If I could take part in one event in history, I would want to be a passenger on the Graf Zeppelin's around-the-world voyage in 1929.

Up in the air

The photo looks like a montage to me. The image of the Zeppelin is exactly the same as the image on the newspaper front page, which was obviously taken while looking up as it flew over.

[The propulsion pods are lined up vertically in the Capitol photo. Not so in the newspaper photo. Obviously two different views. Also note that the haze over the zep in the Capitol photo blends in very well with the haze in the rest of the sky. Our source here is a glass negative, as opposed to a print on paper. - Dave]


This event was hailed as momentous, and a mere 41 years later, America would plant a 50-star flag on the Moon with space flight. The Moon! In only 41 years after a dirigible was touted as progress!

Atop the dome

You know, I've probably seen a zillion pictures of the US Capitol in my lifetime, but this is the first time (probably because of the object hovering over it, and because I'm looking at the photo in full size format) that my eyes were drawn to the statue on top. I'm sure I've seen it with my eyes, but not with my comprehension.

I had to look it up myself to get a closer look at it. It's a statue called "Armed Freedom" and the best shot of it that I could find was, oddly enough, at

48 States in the Flag

In 1928, there were, in fact, 48 States in the Union. Someone up top needs to retake history class.

[That may have been someone's idea of drollery. Or trollery. - Dave]

Hat Crime

"he stepped outdoors, bareheaded ... "

A scandal ensued.

D'oh! Fake Photo?

Let's see ..... 1928 ..... hmmmm.... how many states in the Union?

Fake Photo

Photo is obviously fake. Flag doesn't even have 50 stars on it. Duh.

Run for your lives!!

It's heading for the Capitol!!

(five minutes later)

Keep on running! It's halfway there!!

"Sally ship!"

Something seems odd about the comparative views of the Capitol building and the ship. It looks as though she's making a sharp turn, but it doesn't seem likely that a zeppelin's speed could ever make her heel like that. Do the crew need to shift some ballast?

[There seems to have been quite a bit of dipping and circling involved. - Dave]

The Zeppelin entered Washington from the southeast, passing close to the Capitol, to which it dipped in salute as hundreds emerged from the House and Senate office buildings to view the spectacle. Continuing straight through the heart of the city, the dirigible swung through the northwest section over the German Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, down past the State, War and Navy Building toward the Washington Monument.

By this time its altitude was estimated at about 1,000 feet. It swung easily with a slight roll, the rip in its port fin plainly showing.

It circled the Monument, passing almost over it and dipping in salute. She then turned her nose to the northeast and went directly over the White House, where she again dipped in formal salute and then straightened away toward Baltimore on her way to New York and Lakehurst.


Of all the great pictures I've seen here in Shorpy (and I've seen quite a few!) this has to be one of the most striking. Thank you very much for sharing it with us!

Oct. 15, 12:30 p.m.

Washington Post, Oct 16, 1928

Battle With Winds Marked Air Voyage

Log of Transatlantic Flight Tells Tale of
Struggle Against Elements.

New York, Oct. 15 (A.P.). - Graf Zeppelin, proud aristocrat of a long lineage of aircraft, cruised triumphantly up the Mid-Atlantic Coast today to show herself to millions of Americans who had followed with intense interest and some anxiety the progress of her record breaking voyage from Friedrichshafen, Germany.

The great silver ship made her bow to the waiting continent at 9:45 o'clock this morning, Eastern standard time, when she was sighted from Cape Charles, Va., northern promontory of the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Behind her were not only 6,000 miles of land and water, but anxious moments when a damaged horizontal fin had forced her to reduce speed, and long hours of battling winds that were conspiring to keep her from the goal.

Triumphant over wind, weather and ocean, she slipped over the American coast at 10:10 a.m. at a point six miles north of Cape Charles, and from then on, with the journey's end in sight, her sturdy motors bore her comfortably over the densely populated coastal plain.

She paid her formal respects to Washington at about 12:30 p.m. sliding over the Capitol and White House beneath an overcast sky, and then slipped north to visit Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton and New York, passing as she went many smaller communities, which like their more populous neighbors, saluted the victorious voyager from street and housetop.
Washington first saluted the Graf Zeppelin at 12:21 when she approached from the east over the Capitol. As she circled above the Government buildings, sharp-eyed naval experts noticed the hole in her port stabilizer - the rent that had caused the anxiety last Saturday.

President Coolidge took time to have a look at Graf Zeppelin. Leaving his desk in the White House executive office, he stepped outdoors, bareheaded, watched the dirigible for a moment, as everybody else was doing, and then went back to work.


Can you imagine the havoc that would be caused if this happened today?

First Transoceanic Voyage

This is the Graf after it made the first flight over the Atlantic for an aircraft with paying passengers. It was also notable for damage done to the fabric of the port horizontal stabilizer, which was recovered and lashed tight by volunteers in flight.

Due to the newspaper headlines there was a huge crowd assembled at Lakehust when she arrived. Also a ticker-tape parade for Hugo Eckner and his crew in Manhattan and a reception by President Coolidge in the White House.

My mom saw it fly over her house on the eastern shore of Virginia as a child. She said it filled the sky.

It was not uncommon for airships to fly at an altitude lower than their length. The Graf was 787 feet long. Big enough to "fill the sky!"


White House Military Director Dewey Tellum immediately apologized for the incident, and the German government has promised to cover the entire $88.95 cost of the promotional stunt.

Do I sense a..

Homeland Security alert? Cue the F-18's.

I knew Cheney was right

Obama has left us undefended!

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