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1932 - Amelia Earheart

Amelia Earheart flies across Atlantic - the pioneering aviatrix became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean

Aviation phenomenon Amelia Earhart first made headlines in 1928 when she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic as a passenger on a trans-Atlantic airplane flight. Though she received international fame, Earhart did not think she deserved it; “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes,” she remarked.

Four years later, Earhart attempted to make the flight on her own. Just one person, Charles Lindbergh, had flown solo across the Atlantic. A female aviator, Ruth Nichols, had attempted the flight in 1931, but had crashed in Canada.

On May 20, 1932, five years to the day after Lindbergh’s flight, Earhart took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, in her red Lockheed Vega 5B. She encountered many difficulties; “Earhart fought fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling,” writes the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. “Ice formed on the Vega's wings and caused an unstoppable 3,000-foot descent to just above the waves.”

She had planned to fly to Paris—the same destination as Lindbergh—but the weather and mechanical problems forced her to land at a farm near Derry, Ireland, completing the flight in 14 hours and 56 minutes. She described her landing in a pasture: “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood, I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.”

“Many have said that the last great spectacular feat of this sort which remained in aviation would be a solitary Atlantic crossing by a woman,” the Manchester Guardian wrote. “Without male or other assistance, but relying on her own ability as a pilot, her own skill in the extremely difficult navigation which the Atlantic demands, she has succeeded in proving that the flight is not beyond the knowledge and the capacity for sustained endurance which a woman can acquire.”

Earhart was lavished with honors, receiving a tickertape parade in New York and being awarded a National Geographic Society medal by President Hoover and the Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress.


Her flying career ended with her disappearance in 1937 during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were flying from Lae, New Guinea, to the Pacific Ocean island of Howland in one of the final legs of the flight. Despite massive search and rescue missions, her body was never found. The cause of her disappearance and her ultimate fate remain a mystery.

Earhart’s disappearance spawned countless theories involving radio problems, poor communication, navigation or pilot skills, other landing sites, spy missions and imprisonment, and even living quietly in New Jersey or on a rubber plantation in the Philippines. The most reasonable explanation, based on the known facts of her flight, is that they were unable to locate Howland Island, ran out of fuel, and ditched into the Pacific Ocean.

Despite her tragic end, Earhart continues to inspire people today with her legacy of daring and love of flight. As an aviator, she broke barriers and made the machine age her own.becoming an icon of the rapidly evolving new woman who sought self-definition and fulfillment outside the home.


Further Reading


National Geographic - How Amelia Earhart Navigated the Skies and Society

Denver Post - The Life of Amelia Earhart in Photos

BBC - Amelia Earhart: Does photo show she died a Japanese prisoner?

1932 - Skyscraper Lunch

Lunch atop a Skyscraper - iconic image of New York construction workers taking a break

skyscraper lunch.JPG

It’s the most perilous yet playful lunch break ever captured: 11 construction workers who helped build Rockefeller Center casually eating, chatting and sneaking a smoke as if they weren’t 840 feet above Manhattan with nothing but a thin beam keeping them aloft.


The picture, taken on the 69th floor of the flagship RCA Building (now the GE Building), was staged as part of a promotional campaign for the massive skyscraper complex. While the photographer and the identities of most of the subjects remain a mystery there isn’t an ironworker in New York City who doesn’t see the picture as a badge of their bold tribe. In that way they are not alone. By thumbing its nose at both danger and the Depression, Lunch Atop a Skyscraper came to symbolize American resilience and ambition at a time when both were desperately needed. It has since become an iconic emblem of the city in which it was taken, affirming the romantic belief that New York is a place unafraid to tackle projects that would cow less brazen cities.


Further Reading


Mental Floss - 10 Fascinating Facts About Lunch Atop A Skyscraper

1932 - Bonus Army

Bonus Army March -  as the Great Depression took hold, thousands of 20,000 veterans from all over the country came to Washington to demand payment of a bonus Congress promised former soldiers for their service in World War I

In 1924, Congress rewarded veterans of World War I with certificates redeemable in 1945 for $1,000 each. By 1932, many of these former servicemen had lost their jobs and fortunes in the early days of the Depression. They asked Congress to redeem their Bonus Certificates early.

Led by Walter Waters of Oregon, the so-called Bonus Expeditionary Force set out for the nation's capital. Hitching rides, hopping trains, and hiking finally brought the Bonus Army, now 15,000 strong, into the capital in June 1932. Although President Hoover refused to address them, the veterans did find an audience with a congressional delegation. Soon a debate began in the Congress over whether to meet the demonstrators' demands.

As deliberation continued on Capitol Hill, the Bonus Army built a shantytown across the Potomac River in Anacostia Flats. When the Senate rejected their demands on June 17, most of the veterans dejectedly returned home. But several thousand remained in the capital with their families. Many had nowhere else to go. The Bonus Army conducted itself with decorum and spent their vigil unarmed.

However, many believed them a threat to national security. On July 28, Washington police began to clear the demonstrators out of the capital. Two men were killed as tear gas and bayonets assailed the Bonus Marchers. Fearing rising disorder, Hoover ordered an army regiment into the city, under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur. The army, complete with infantry, cavalry, and tanks, rolled into Anacostia Flats forcing the Bonus Army to flee. MacArthur then ordered the shanty settlements burned.

Many Americans were outraged. How could the army treat veterans of the Great War with such disrespect? Hoover maintained that political agitators, anarchists, and communists dominated the mob. But facts contradict his claims. Nine out of ten Bonus Marchers were indeed veterans, and 20% were disabled. Despite the fact that the Bonus Army was the largest march on Washington up to that point in history, Hoover and MacArthur clearly overestimated the threat posed to national security. As Hoover campaigned for reelection that summer, his actions turned an already sour public opinion of him even further bottomward.


Further Reading


Eyewitness to History - The Bonus Army Invades Washington D.C.

Smithsonian - Marching on History

Chicago Tribune - Bonus March in Pictures

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