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The Hindenburg Photos:
- A Mystery -

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When and where were these photos taken?

NOTE: Just because I have a couple of Hindenburg photos does not mean that I am, defacto, a Hindenburg historian. I am unable to answer questions about its history, its routes, its timetables, its crew, its passengers, its parts and pieces, or about other photos that might have been taken of the Hindenburg. (Sorry.)

These two photos of the Hindenburg and the accompanying newspaper clipping were found in an old photo album that belonged to my late grandfather, Jay W. Sterner.

The photo album was entitled Belmar, N.J., 1936-1946. Upon the page containing the two Hindenburg photos was written:

HINDENBURG

May 12th, 1936
6 P.M.

THE RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH

The above description seems to contradict itself. First it says it occured "May 12th, 1936" - almost exactly one year BEFORE the date of the disaster; then at the bottom it says "THE RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH" - as if to say that these photos were taken the same day as the disaster. Therefore, I'm lost.

I am unable to say exactly where these photos were taken. I assume Belmar, from the title upon the album cover; and because that is where my grandfather lived most all his life. However, the possibility always exists that they may not have been taken in Belmar.

I was unable to look at the backs of the pictures to see if there was any other helpful, descriptive informational writing because the photos are glued to the contruction paper page. There are no negatives; nor are there any other copies of these photos that I could find available. These are all that there are, apparently.

Does anyone recognize the landscape? ...the homes? ...the waterfront area in the foreground, there? It looks kinda like a foggy, dreary day. The photos appear to have been taken over an inlet, somewhere. In the top photograph, notice how the Hindenburg looks ghostly dim compared to the sharpness of the homes below it. (The two photos may have been taken in different exposure lengths, or it could just be an effect of the fog, alone.)

If anyone can help me in answering these questions, I would also be grateful.

Historical Timeline:

Of the historical timeline, we know this, which was borrowed from Hindenburg.net's historical timeline [before the web page suddenly disappeared on 4/15/2002]:

March 26, 1936: Germany's 804-foot Hindenburg launched; begins propaganda tour.

May 6, 1936: Hindenburg inaugurates first scheduled passenger air service between Europe and the United States.

August 1936: Hindenburg appears at the Berlin Olympics' opening ceremonies.

May 3, 1937: Hindenburg departs Frankfurt on final voyage.

...And, of course, we know that the disaster finally occured on May 6th, 1937, at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

I know that the average trip time between Germany and Lakehurst was about 60 hours (or about two-and-a-half days).

Discrepancies:

  1. The Hindenburg's accident occured May 6th, 1937. The caption in the album states the photos were taken May 12th, 1936.

  2. In 1936, the Hindenburg sported the Olympic logo because Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. In Grandpa's photos, the Hindenburg is without that logo. (The logo, when it was displayed upon the craft, was located square between the "DLZ129" registry located about amidships, and the "Hindenburg" ship name located forward. As you can see in my grandfather's photos however, nothing like that is visible at all.) So, the question then becomes: for what period, exactly, did the Hindenburg sport the Olympic logo? That is, from what month and day, to what month and day, was it displayed? If it WAS being displayed on March 12th, 1936, then we know that these photos could not possibly have been taken on the date indicated on the album. This increases the possibility that my grandfather's secondary description, "THE RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH" may indeed be the more accurate one.

  3. If indeed taken in 1937, there was only one flight to the U.S. in that year - the day the accident occured, and it occured on May 6th. So, the May 12th date written upon the album page, in that case, would have to be wrong; obviously.

My current thinking is that Grandpa did one of two possible things, here: a) he took the photos one year before the accident and, while pasting the photos to the page, he was remembering the accident and wasn't paying quite good enough attention to what he was thinking and what he was writing; or b) he indeed took the photo on the same day as the disaster and simply wrote the date down wrong. I see either scenerio as plausible and both are very easily possible, to me. We just have to figure out which of the two possibilities occured, here.

At any rate, here are the two photos from the album. If you click on any of the photos you will be taken to a higher resolution scan (in JPEG format).


[The Entire Album Page]

This is the entire page as it appears in the photo album. (This has been retouched a bit, to remove smudges in the photos.) This is a scaled-down image. Click on it for a higher resolution scan. [730K].


[Hindenburg Photo #1]

The top photo of the Hindenburg on page 3 of Grandpa's photo album. No the Hindenburg is not leaking fuel there just below it. That's a smudge. Hindenburg looks ghostly. Must be foggy.


[Hindenburg Photo #2]

The bottom photo of the Hindenburg on the same page. A little clearer and darker. In the hi-res scan you can just depict the swastikas on the tail.


[HINDNBG3.GIF]

The newspaper clipping on the facing page (from an unknown newspaper) of the Hindenburg exploding over Lakehurst Naval Air Station The description below the picture reads:

  THE HINDENBURG EXPLODES, 1937.  Twenty photographers were
  waiting to take routine shots when the Hindenburg arrived
  at Lakehurst, N.J., on her 21st Atlantic crossing.  Sud-
  denly fire broke out; 60 seconds later nothing was left of
  the dirigible but molten metal.  The cameramen reacted
  instantaneously to produce the most complete coverage of a
  news event in history.


UPDATE - January, 2002:

Henry Kreuger, while browsing the Internet, spotted this page and sent me an e-mail with a little help (with thanks)...

Interesting photos (on the website). I noted your confusion about the "rendezvous with death" and the date on the photo. One thing I noted in the hi-rez photo. The Hindenburg seems to bear no Olympic rings on its side. Berlin hosted the '36 Olympics which were held in August. The rings were removed during the seasonal lay over and so the photo HAS to be from 1937. If it is from 1937 and a photo of the ship over America, it has to have been taken on May 6, 1937.. within hours of the Lakehurst disaster. The only day in 1937 the ship was in the United States. I think the photo was mis-dated but the caption was correct.

If Henry is correct, then that would mean that this photo was taken the SAME DAY as the disaster, on it's final inbound leg to Lakehurst. In that case, If it turns out to be same day as the disaster, then the historical importance of these photographs just jumped. These photos could have been taken anywhere from Seaside Heights to Asbury Park, as the Hindenburg on that day could not land right away due to low visibility and gusty winds when it first arrived at Lakehurst at 4pm. It flew around along the shoreline between Seaside Heights and Asbury Park until it was told conditions were better at about 7:10pm. If anyone can help ID where these photos were taken, exactly, I would appreciate it. Here are the two photos again, this time, overlaid upon each other so that the homes line up. Hopefully this will aid someone in recognizing the landscape.

If you're in England, watch for the Wark-Clements TV program called The A-Z of Disasters. Under the part about the "Hindenburg," the higher res of these two photos can be seen. But don't blink. It goes by so fast you may miss it. This satisfies me, too. I have helped to make my grandfather just a little more famous by doing that.

Look for these photos soon, too, in the upcoming Rutgers University Press publication, Encyclopedia of New Jersey! [UPDATE: Unfortunately, Rutgers Press screwed up. I paid a hefty price to obtain a copy of their "Encyclopedia" only to discover that on the page where my grandfather's Hindenburg photo was supposed to have appeared, they used someone ELSE'S photo, and placed a description beneath it giving credit to my grandfather. (sigh) And we went through SUCH A HASSLE to get that photo TO them at their request, too! I had to take it to a professional studio and get it scanned in high enough resolution by them. Then I had to make photographic copies suitable for them and send them to them by mail. And after finally receiving the damned thing, it was all screwed up. On top of that, they wouldn't give a refund or offer a trade-up for the next corrected version (IF one was ever published). Needless to say, I wasn't happy with Rutgers.]

UPDATE - February, 2011:

Reader Scott Schanke, of England, seems to have solved the mystery of WHERE the photos were taken. They were apparently taken from the west side of Terrace Road in Belmar, looking east. Using Bing (click here) Scott was able to hunt around using satellite imagery of Belmar, looking at modern rooftops, and was able to find matches with the old photos.

In the old photos, Shark River would be located right behind the photographer. The lake seen in the photos is apparently not named. It is located between Shark River and Silver Lake, but connected to Shark River. The homes seen in the old photos are apparently along the street known as Inlet Terrace in Belmar.

Anybody who lives in Belmar who might be able to go there with a camera and try to pinpoint where the photo might have been taken from? Would be interesting to know just where my grandfather was standing. Not a HIGH priority but if anyone feels like doing that, that would be nice. :)

So I guess now the next step would be to see if they have any detailed flight path maps for each trip - with detail on the flight paths over New Jersey. If we can do THAT, then we can probably solve the myetery of which day EXACTLY, that these photos were taken.

Download these pictures with description file.

Some Other Hindenburg-related Links:

Other Adventures Of My Grandfather

My grandfather seemed to get around a lot. Seems like he was always someplace just at the right time. If you're interested, here's a story about a trip he and his best friend took to Washington, D.C. in 1906, where they took some photos and did some things which today might perhaps be considered somewhat "delinquent"...such as scaling some unattended scaffolding beneath the Capitol Rotunda, finding a secret door, exiting outside just beneath the statue at the top of the dome, walking around a bit at the top, and then taking some photos. Actually, it's but one story that is part of the main - about how I tried to retrace my grandfather's 1906 footsteps during a 1996 trip to D.C. that I took there, myself.

Other Interesting Web Pages By Me

Check out these other interesting web pages that I run...

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Created: March 23, 1996.
Last Updated: May 18, 2000, May 5, 2002, February 25, 2011.

Mail to: Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
This page and all scans Copyright © 1995-2011 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.

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