On This Day in 1928, Regular People Could Finally Fly Across the Ocean

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The National Museum of American History reminds us that it was on this day in 1928 that you could first purchase a commercial ticket to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Graf Zeppelin, seen here over Chicago, would have been your airship. You would have been one of twenty lucky passengers on the hydrogen-filled dirigible. 43 crew members were needed to pilot the vessel through the sky.

"It flew across Europe and the world through the 1930s. At the same time, airline companies began to proliferate, flying early piston-engine airplanes. The sizes of these planes were small," the Museum instructs. "Like the Graf, they accommodated just a few passengers and commanded high ticket prices. Until the widespread adoption of the DC-3 aircraft, commercial air transport of passengers was for the wealthy and the daring."

The Graf drew crowds wherever it went as people stared up at the huge machine flying over the landscape. Even 30 years after its first flight, The Baltimore Sun called her, "undoubtedly the most famous aircraft that ever sailed through the skies."

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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