Clara Adams, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, was a passenger on many first flights in early aviation history, including the transatlantic flight of the Graf Zeppelin in 1928 and the inaugural flight of the Hindenburg. A number of artifacts documenting her travels were recently donated to the International Women’s Air & Space Museum in Cleveland. Donated items include a Hindenburg passenger booklet from the inaugural flight, a handwritten description of the Graf Zeppelin from the 1928 flight, Adams’ lecture notes and numerous photographs and other memorabilia. The museum is preparing the artifacts for display later this year.
Adams and Lady Grace Drummond-Hay, who flew as a correspondent for a worldwide news service, were Zeppelin passengers together on several occasions and supporters of this mode of transportation. In 1929, Drummond-Hay was the only woman to fly around the world on the Graf Zeppelin. That flight is the subject of “Farewell,” a documentary from the Netherlands playing at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival. The International Women’s Air & Space Museum is a community partner for the film.
When Adams bought her round-trip ticket on the Graf Zeppelin it was the first air ticket to cross the Atlantic sold to a woman and it cost $3,000, about three years’ salary for an average worker at that time. Adams & Drummond-Hay were both on the inaugural flight of the Hindenburg in 1936. After the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937, Adams purchased a ticket for a next flight that never took place in support of the company. In 1939 she set a world record as the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world airplane flight, on Pan Am Dixie Clipper’s inaugural flight. Adams logged more than 150,000 maiden voyage miles during her lifetime. The artifacts relating to Clara Adams’ historic flights and speaking engagements throughout her life were presented to the museum by the granddaughter of Adams’ good friend, Jessie Chamberlin. Chamberlin was president of the Women’s International Association of Aeronautics in the 1940s.
The International Women’s Air & Space Museum is located at Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL). Museum admission is free and exhibits are open 8 am–8 pm daily. For more information: IWASM.org