The wealth and power of modern civilization seem symbolized by Manhattan’s famous sky-line, towering in the distance across the Hudson River, against the glorious background of the rising sun. The commerce and industry of the Metropolis are proclaimed by the docked ships and factories in the foreground, with power plants, warehouses, tanks and elevated railways indicating the great activity of the port. Suggestive of vast engineering project, the new George Washington bridge spans the Hudson with a single sweep of over two-thirds of a mile between its towering pylons. Overhead, the proud Akron glides above the city before commencing its voyage to the Panama Canal. It is being given a great send-off by a squadron of airplanes, two of which can be seen in the picture. (Friends of New Orleans Lakefront Airport)
The Akron was manufactured in 1929 and launched the first voyage in 1931.
Springing upward into a mass of gray clouds scuttling across the sky, the U. S. S. Akron, largest airship ever built, started on her ninth and last test flight at 6:50 a.m. today. The voyage, an endurance hop, was to last at least 48 hours. “Akron Airship is on Last Test Hop”, New Castle News, 16 Oct 1931, p. 1)
In January 1933, the Akron departed Lakehurst, New Jersey for Panama, stopping off in Balboa to investigate a potential air base site. The Akron crashed off the coast of New Jersey in April 1933 following an encounter with severe weather. A German merchant ship, Phoebus, saw the descending lights and altered course. They were able to pull four men from the water. One died without regaining consciousness, but the other three survived. A total of 73 perished from drowning or hypothermia.
Like the other murals of the work Xavier Gonzalez completed for then-named Shushan Airport, New York Metropolis provides another look into the world of early flying for commercial and military use. The Akron was developed by the US Navy, and shortly after, the sister ship Macon was completed. The loss of the Akron and major loss of life derailed hopes for rigid-sided airship use. The Macon was damaged and sank 2 years later; however, the use of life preservers on the airship had begun after the loss of the Akron, and 70 of the 72 men aboard the Macon were rescued.
It was revealed that no life preservers were aboard the Akron when it put to sea last Monday night. One officer, who has flown 200 hours in the Akron, said he never had seen a life preserver aboard.
Life preservers, because of their weight, were not considered an essential part of the dirigible’s equipment. A life raft and one parachute were aboard as safety devices when the ship plunged into the Atlantic. (“Navy starts its probe of Akron airship crash”, Delaware County Daily Times, 10 Apr 1933, p. 1, 14)