This is an interesting photograph of the Airship Akron, just before its departure and shortly before its fatal crash.
The Doomed Airship Just Before Its Last Flight
A Photograph of Vaniman with His Cat Kiddo, Who Accompanied Him on Many of His Voyages
The Akron was a dirgible built by pioneering American photographer, inventor, adventurer and early aviator Chester Melvin Vaniman (1866-1912).
Vaniman built the Akron in an effort to be the first to cross the Atlantic in a dirigible. But on its first attempt the Akron exploded on July 2, 1912, the Akron exploded just off the shore of New Jersey, killing Vaniman and his crew.
The picture is interesting, not only because it records some of the final hours of the doomed airship but also because of the crowds that came to see it off. We see an interesting cross section of an America in transition: horse drawn carriages mingle with parked cars and motorcycles, while a giant airship – which would prove to be an evolutionary dead end in terms of aviation – looms in the foreground.
A large crowd turns out to watch the first game of the 1912 World Series, which saw the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants four games to three (with one tie). The picture was taken on Tuesday, October 8, 1912 at the Polo Grounds (IV) in upper Manhattan, New York. The clock on the upper right of the photo says that the time is 11:41
We can get a glimpse into the society at the time by observing the crowd and the advertising signs. There are billboards peddling Turkish Trophies (cigarettes?), hosiery, gloves, underwear and liquor and beer. More interesting are the people in the stands.
Can you see what is different about this picture and the people in it compared to today’s games? Below is a closeup of the spectators:
We can see a lot of men, and not a single woman. And the men are all white, are all wearing suits and hats. This is not an anomaly – the stands are filled with the same type of people everywhere in the stands. What are we to make of this? Visible minorities and women do not seem to have been welcome at the games. And the men who attended dressed up; some are even wearing top hats. Considering that baseball has always been considered America’s game, can we draw conclusions about American society at the time from this snap shot? Perhaps. But we can certainly say that the world depicted in that picture no longer exists, and that is I think a good thing.
How the world has changed!