Seattle Chamber of Commerce Round-the-World Flight Collection, 1923-1925  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Seattle Chamber of Commerce Round-the-World Flight Collection
1923-1925 (inclusive)
2 boxes
Collection Number
1956.1145 (accession)
Newspaper clippings, correspondence, and committee minutes related to the United States Army Air Service’s “Round the World Flight” in 1924, including pre-flight planning, christening event, crash retrieval, return celebration and gifts, the creation of a monument, and the disposition of the aircrafts
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.


Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce Round-the-World Flight Collection is comprised of committee meeting minutes, schedules, and lists, as well as correspondence regarding permission to fly over foreign countries, event planning documents, maps, and schedules. Correspondence, comprising both letters and telegrams, concerns the flight, all of the related events, the crash of the "Seattle," the return flight plan, the monument, the souvenirs, and the final resting places of each aircraft. Event invitations are included, as well as responses. Clippings cover the flight, crash, return celebration, monument, and souvenirs. One photograph shows Lt. Lowell Smith in Boston before the return flight to Seattle.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

In the 1920s many countries were vying to be the first to circumnavigate the world by air. The United States Army Air Service, precursor to the United States Air Force, decided to sponsor a mission to circumnavigate the world using military aircraft, planned by the War Department planning committee. Douglas Aircraft Company was commissioned to build the aircraft for the flight, producing the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC), which was equipped with both wheels and pontoons. In 1924 four planes, "Seattle," "Chicago," "Boston" and "New Orleans" left from Sand Point in Seattle, Washington. After many celebratory events, including a christening and an aerial circus, the planes left on April 6, 1924, heading for Alaska. The "Seattle" crashed in Alaska; the crew members were fine and were rescued, however they were unable to continue the flight. The "Boston" made it to Europe, but was forced to land at sea when it suddenly lost all oil pressure. The crew was rescued by the United States Navy, but the plane was damaged beyond repair and was sunk. The prototype aircraft was brought, renamed the "Boston II," and the planes continued toward Seattle. After several stops throughout the States, the planes arrived back at Sand Point Field in Seattle on September 28, 1924. It was a 27,553 mile flight, completed in 175 days.

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce was in charge of welcoming events, both for the departure and the arrival back in Seattle. They were also in charge of souvenirs for the pilots and crew, and also for the construction of a suitable memorial. Creating souvenirs caused many conflicts. Wings were originally suggested, to be worn on dress occasions, but the Navy did not approve them. Bids were put in for watches and rings, and rings were ultimately selected. With this final selection came frantic checking with other cities to make sure they were not bestowing the same souvenir. In Seattle there were many bids, hurt feelings, and outstanding bills from local jewelers.

Sand Point became a Naval Air Station, largely due to the World flight. After the air field was decommissioned, it became Warren G. Magnuson Park, where the World Flight memorial statue can still be seen at the park entrance. The statue was designed and sculpted by Alonzo Victor Lewis, a famous Washington sculptor who taught at the University of Washington and whose sculptures can be seen on some of the buildings, such as Miller Hall. Creating the commemorative statue involved many issues, first with the Navy regarding location, as there was concern that the height of the statue would cause aerial interference. Many local brass foundries were insulted when they weren’t chosen, as were other local sculptors.

The "Chicago" is at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and the "New Orleans" is part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History’s collections. A model is currently on display, while the original is at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, CA. The wreckage of the "Seattle" was retrieved and is on display at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Seattle Chamber of Commerce Round-the-World Flight Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Flight planning papers 1923-1924
2 Committees 1924-1925
3 General correspondence 1923-1924
4 Event correspondence 1924
5 Crew/family correspondence 1924
6 Post-event correspondence 1924-1925
7 Event invitations 1924
8 Christening event 1924
9 Arrival celebration and post-event Papers 1924-1925
10 Photograph of Lt. Lowell Smith in Boston 1924
11 Monument 1924-1925
12 Gift correspondence 1924
13 Ring drawings 1924
14 Aircraft disposition 1924
15 Newspaper clippings 1924 January-May
16 Newspaper clippings 1924 July-November
2 Newspaper pages 1924 March-October

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Aerial exploration
  • Flights around the world
  • Naval Station Puget Sound (Wash.)
  • United States. Army. Air Service
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Clippings
  • Correspondence