The Interior of the Hindenburg Revealed in 1930s Color Photos: Inside the Ill-Fated Airship

Hindenburg 1

We’ve all seen the Hin­den­burg. Specif­i­cal­ly, we’ve all seen it explod­ing, an inci­dent cap­tured on film on that fate­ful day of May 6, 1937 — fate­ful for those aboard, of course, but also fate­ful for the pas­sen­ger air­ship indus­try, which nev­er recov­ered from this worst of all pos­si­ble press. The con­tem­po­rary rise of Pan Amer­i­can Air­lines did­n’t help, either, so now, when we want to go to a far­away land, we’ve usu­al­ly got to take a jet. I hap­pen to be mov­ing to Korea tomor­row, and to get there I sim­ply don’t have the choice of an air­ship (Hin­den­burg- class or oth­er­wise) nor have I ever had that choice. I’ve thus nev­er seen the inside of an air­ship — until today.

Hindenburg 2

These col­or images reveal the inte­ri­or of not just any old 1930s air­ship but the Hin­den­burg itself, look­ing as gen­teel and well-appoint­ed as you might expect, with accom­mo­da­tions up to and includ­ing, some­where below its hydro­gen-filled bal­loon, a smok­ing room. It brings to mind Sideshow Bob’s off­hand com­ment on one Simp­sons episode lament­ing the pas­sage of “the days when avi­a­tion was a gentleman’s pur­suit, back before every Joe Sweat­sock could wedge him­self behind a lunch tray and jet off to Raleigh-Durham.” But then, it also brings to mind anoth­er episode in which Bart gets a check­book print­ed with flip­book-style images of the famous Hin­den­burg dis­as­ter news­reel footage.

Hindenburg 3

That clip, often dubbed with Her­bert Mor­rison’s “Oh, the human­i­ty!” repor­to­r­i­al nar­ra­tion, has famil­iar­ized us with the last large pas­sen­ger air­ship’s exte­ri­or, but these images of its inte­ri­or have had less expo­sure. For more, have a look at a Diri­gi­ble and Zep­pelin His­to­ry Site, which offers a wealth of detail on the Hin­den­burg’s pas­sen­ger decks, con­trol car, flight instru­ment, flight con­trols, crew areas, and keel.


The more you learn about air­ships, the more intrigu­ing a form of trav­el they seem — until you learn about all the oth­er dis­as­ters that pre­ced­ed the Hin­den­burg, any­way. And that aside, giv­en its top speed of 84 miles per hour, it would take a sim­i­lar­ly retro air­ship at least sev­en times longer to get me to Korea than a jet, so I guess I’ll have to stick with the air­lines for now.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oh the Human­i­ty

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry Of Avi­a­tion: From da Vinci’s Sketch­es to Apol­lo 11

The Mir­a­cle of Flight, the Clas­sic Ear­ly Ani­ma­tion by Ter­ry Gilliam

Col­in Mar­shall writes else­where on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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