The “Millionaires Flight” of the Hindenburg was a 10-1/2 hour cruise over New England on October 9, 1936, for 72 wealthy and influential passengers. The guests were invited to generate support for a German-American zeppelin service and it was said the passengers had a combined net worth of more than one billion dollars, from which the flight got its nickname.
Passengers on the “Millionaires Flight” were leaders in the fields of finance, industry, government, and aviation. The guests included powerful financiers such as Winthrop W. Aldrich and Nelson Rockefeller; U.S. and German government officials and naval officers; and leaders in the aviation industry including Eddie Rickenbacker of Eastern Airlines, Jack Frye of TWA, Eugene Vidal, and perhaps most importantly, Juan Trippe of Pan American Airways.
Juan Trippe had been a director of the Pacific Zeppelin Transport Company, founded in 1929 to operate a never-realized 36-hour zeppelin service between California and Hawaii. Airships appeared to pose direct competition to the flying boat airliners Pan Am wanted as operate across the Atlantic, and in fact shortly after the Millionaires Flight, Trippe and his wife Betty embarked on a round-the-world voyage by air that included a flight on Hindenburg from Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro. Trippe was invited on the Millionaires Flight to stimulate his interest in investing in a zeppelin venture but, firmly invested in Pan Am’s clipper flying boats, he likely accepted the invitation to check out the competition.
The flight was jointly organized by the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (DZR) and Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), which supplied diesel fuel and hydrogen to the Hindenburg, and the passengers were hosted during the flight by Hugo Eckener, Ernst Lehman, and DZR’s American representative, F. W. “Willy” von Meister. NBC radio reporter John B. Kennedy did live airborne broadcasts from the ship over the NBC Blue and Red networks in the afternoon.
The flight was a leisurely day-long cruise over the fall foliage of New England.
Passengers boarded a specially chartered Pullman train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station on the evening of October 8, 1936, and settled into sleeping compartments. The train traveled to Lakehurst overnight and parked at a railroad siding a few hundred feet from the mooring mast, and at 5:00 AM the passengers were awakened for breakfast and then taken to the airship.
Hindenburg left Lakehurst at 6:57 AM and flew up the Hudson River to New England, passing over Hartford, Springfield, and Worcester, and reaching Boston around Noon.
The ship circled over Boston while the VIP guests enjoyed a midday meal of Swallow Nest Soup, cold Rhine salmon, tenderloin steak, Chateau Potatoes, Beans a la Princesse, Carmen salad, and iced melon, accompanied by beer and wines including a 1934 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen and a 1928 Feist Brut, and followed by Turkish coffee, pastries, and fine liqueurs.
After lunch the airship turned south and passed Providence, New London, and New Haven before reaching New York City at around 3:00 PM, and finally headed back to Lakehurst.
Despite a heavy fog (which grounded the American Airlines DC-3’s taking passengers back to New York from Lakehurst), Hindenburg landed without difficulty at 5:22 PM and then departed for Germany as scheduled on its last transatlantic crossing of the 1936 season.
Complete Passenger List
Winthrop W. Aldrich
Chairman of the Chase National Bank
J. W. Bancker
William J. Baxter
Baxter International Economic Research Bureau
R. H. Blake
Lt. Gen. Friedrich von Boetticher
German Military AttachÃ© to United States (“Hitler’s Ambivalent AttachÃ©”)
Chairman of U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board; City Editor and Washington correspondent for The Atlanta Journal
William J. Brewster
Harry A. Bruno
Aviation Public Relations Executive
William A. M. Burden
Wall Street aviation analyst; great-great-grandson of railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt
Reginald M. Cleveland
Aviation Reporter; New York Times, Scientific American
Colonel J. C. Cone
Director of Air Regulations, Aeronautics Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce
Rear Admiral Arthur B. Cook
Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics, United States Navy
William F. Cutler
H. Morin de Linclays
U.S. General Manager of the French Line (Compagnie GÃ©nÃ©rale Transatlantique)
Harry L. Derby
President, American Cyanamid and Chemical Corporation
President of New Jersey Senate
Byron C. Foy
President of De Soto Motors and son-in-law of Walter Chrysler
Frederick H. Frazier
Chairman of the General Baking Company, a conglomerate of 21 baking companies in 12 states.
Alvin T. Fuller
Former Governor of Massachusetts (perhaps best known for his refusal to pardon Sacco and Vanzetti); Wealthy automobile dealer and art collector
Commander Garland Fulton
U.S. Navy airship officer
Robert L. Hague
Vice President, Standard Oil of New Jersey
John Augustine Hartford
Chief Executive, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P)
John D. Hertz
Founder of Yellow Cab Company; Partner in Lehman Brothers investment bank; Transportation investor
H. E. Hildebrand
H. L. Hughes
Harry P. Kelliher
John B. Kennedy
Reporter, National Broadcasting Company
James L. Kilgallen
Famed Report with Hearst’s International News Service; Father of reporter Dorothy Kilgallen who made a round-the-world flight by air, including a leg on Hindenburg
Robert D. King
John E. Lamiell
Director of the International Service, United States Post Office
United Press Staff Correspondent
Director of the Hamburg-Amerika Line and an officer of Standard Oil
Paul W. Litchfield
President of Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and the leading force behind American commercial airship endeavors
German ambassador to the United States; Former chancellor and President of Germany and President of the Reichsbank
Bethlehem Steel Executive
Lucius B. Manning
President, Cord Automobile Corporation
Former New Jersey Attorney General and founder of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey, one of America’s largest utility companies
Edward O. McDonnell
Director of Pan American Airways; Banker with Grayson M.P. Murphy (an investor in the Pacific Zeppelin Transport Co., of which McDonnell was a director)
R. Walton Moore
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
A. L. Murphy
Journalist with the Philadelphia Record
Rear Admiral William S. Pye
United States Navy
W. M. Rapsher
United States Customs Service
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker
Famed aviator, WWI fighter ace, and General Manager of Eastern Air Lines
Joseph P. Ripley
Vice President, National City Bank; Investor in Pan American Airways, NYRBA, and United Aircraft; Director of Pacific Zeppelin Transport Co.
Chase National Bank; Grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller; future Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States
Commander Charles E. Rosendahl
Senior U.S. Navy airship commander
John F. Royal
Senior Executive, National Broadcasting Company
E. J. Sadler
Vice President, Standard Oil of New Jersey
Abel Alan (“Abe”) Schechter
News Director, National Broadcasting Company
Dr. D. A. Schmitz
Edward L. Shea
Executive Vice President, Tidewater Associated Oil Co.
Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State
(One of Southgate’s predecessors as Chief of Protocol was Ferdinand Lammot Belin Sr., whose son (“Peter” Belin) survived the Hindenburg disaster)
Admiral William H. Standley
Chief of Naval Operations, United States Navy
Juan T. Trippe
Head of Pan American Airways; Director of Pacific Zeppelin Transport Co.
Eugene L. Vidal
Director of Aeronautics of the U.S. Department of Commerce; a close personal friend of Amelia Earhart
Lieutenant George F. Watson
U.S. Navy airship officer
M. G. B. Whelpley
Vice President, Chase Securities; President, American Express Bank & Trust; Former V.P. of Chase National Bank
Vice Admiral Robert Witthoeft-Emden
German Naval Attaché
H. C. Woodall
Henry Ford, Walter P. Chrysler, Alfred P. Sloan Jr., and Walter C. Teagle were among those who were invited but did not join the flight.
I would like to express my appreciation to Patrick Russell and John Provan, and Doug Miller of the Pan Am Historical Foundation, for their assistance with this post.
Thanks for the history lesson . I wonder why Walter P. Chrysler refused to attend ?
Yes, it was 1936.
What a list of elite passengers. I was able to connect with DA Schmitz’s granddaughter who lives in Ohio. She also has possession of the coveted souvenir ashtray each passenger was given.
My 4th great grrandfather wass Americas first aeronaut that. Created tthe hydrogen hot air balloon and. Flew. It. From NJ TO NY. His name. Was Philip DURANT. Do you know if he had any involvement with the Hindenburg? I can’t understand what they were thinking re using hydrogen gas.
They were using hydrogen because the US refused to sell them Helium
No, the Germans never asked for helium for Hindenburg; the Germans did not ask the U.S. government for helium until after the Hindenburg crash.
Some years back a fellow who worked for Travelers Insurance in Hartford brought a 100′ roll of 16mm B&W film to my firm in Connecticut. We were (and still are) in the business of converting old motion picture film to digital. Anyway, the old, faded yellow Kodak box was marked… Read more »
My father is Colonel J. C. Cone who was Director of Air Regulations, Aeronautics Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. I think that it was on this flight that Juan T. Trippe Head of Pan American Airways; Director of Pacific Zeppelin Transport Co. discussed with Dad, leaving government and taking over… Read more »
We should chat sometime. My grandfather was also a guest on the Millionaires flight & was presented with the ashtray all guests received. Do you happen to still have the one your Dad would have received? I appeared on Antiques Road Show with my Grandfather’s gift.
hi mary would love for you to contact me sometime. been an avid airship researcher for 29 years and do presentations on the hindenburg and us navy airships. my address is : david e. helms
2609 supreme drive monroe, nc. 28110 cell# 704-254-0859. hope to hear from you.
My Grandfather was Edward O. McDonnell. It has always amazed me how many exploits this true American hero, (Medal of Honor, early naval aviator..)was involved in. This group included so many visionaries and truly helped to define the early years of aviation.
I see that your grandfather was an early director of Pan American Airways and must have known my father J. Carroll Cone, Charles Lindberg, Juan Trippe, Amelia Earhart, Orville & Wilbur Wright, etc. I would like to discuss some aviation history with you. Dad is also buried at Arlington along… Read more »
your grandfather must have been a truly special man who met some incredible people in his lifetime. would love to talk with you. i am an airship researcher for over 25 years. call me sometime: david helms 704-254-0859 (cell )
Hi. I saw that you are a researcher of everything aeronautical. I have been doing my faamily tree on ancestry. I have several interesstinggg peoole apparently in my history. One is thaat my 4th great grandfather was Philip DURANT. 1st American Aeronaut. He created thee hydrrogen. Hot Air Balloon that… Read more »
Would love to speak with you. Feel free to call me anytime: 704-254-0859.
Would love to hear more about your grandfather. I can share some interesting stories with you as well. Feel free to call me.
David cell# 704-254-0859
Would love to know more about your grandfather. Call me sometime. Thanks
David cell: 704-254-0859
I was in grade two in Andover Mass and was released from school early after lunch so we could see the Hindenberg in flight while we walked home. I recall the huge whale-like appearance as it flew more than a thousand feet overhead,almost blacking out the sky
eddie rickenbacker came to charlotte, n.c. in january 1958. he spoke to the chamber of commerce at the downtown hotel charlotte. i interviewed a ww11 veteran who attended that meeting. he was very impressed by eddie rickenbacker. i have an official letter written by eddie rickenbacker to the president of… Read more »
my father was 19 years old working in a textile mill in Holyoke, MA when he saw the Hindenburg pass overhead. He was atop a 4 or 5 story factory, clearing up debri which came out of the looms in the factory. he recalled being able to see faces from… Read more »