Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Archives Reveal Lots of Hot Air: The Airship Collection

By Carolyn Foyle, Archives Intern 

Have you ever wanted to learn about airships and balloons? Well, you are in luck because I have had the opportunity to intern here at Stevens over the summer and process a collection about airships and balloons. The collection contains hundreds of photographs and newspaper articles about airships and balloons that were used for the military and entered in balloon races. While processing this collection I learned a lot about the successes and failures of these products as well as a comprehensive history and other interesting pieces of information.

In 1911, the airship industry was developed and Goodyear was one of the first known companies to develop them in Akron, Ohio. Goodyear’s main purpose was for the Army and Navy during World War I. After many successful creations of airships, they began to produce other products like balloons and various types of boats. Goodyear began to compete in balloon races throughout the United States and Europe. The company faced many hardships because of disastrous airship and balloon crashes. By the late 1940s, the use of airships began to decline because better technology was being developed for airplanes.

When I was given this project, little was known of the donor of this collection, but I was able to put on my researcher hat and investigate this more! During my investigation, I found many postcards addressed to a V.N. Braden. I even found a picture of the man, but wanted to find more information on him. This is when the investigation became interesting--I searched through various ancestry websites for a V.N. Braden and learned that his initials stand for Vally Nicholas and I also learned that he was born in Ohio in 1891 and died in 1980 here in Essex, New Jersey. I kept searching for more information and finally found Braden mentioned in a Goodyear Annual Report. He was the manager of the Factory Aeronautical Department of Goodyear for many years before he moved to New Jersey. The photo above shows Braden (second from left) with his fellow Goodyear employees.

I came across many interesting materials such as operating manuals for airships and boats, and there is even an actual bullet contained in this collection! Also, there are many photographs of balloons that were used in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that were stored in warehouses right here in Hoboken until it was time to bring them into New York. I had the opportunity to digitize some great photos from this collection, which will be available soon through Steven’s special collection site. Over the course of the summer, my internship experience here at Stevens has been great. Hopefully you will get an opportunity to come check out this awesome collection! For more information or to schedule an appointment to view special collections click here

Carolyn Foyle is a MSLIS candidate at Pratt Institute's School of Information and Library Science.