At approximately 10:45 in the morning on Friday, October 9, 1936, William Shattuck looked over to the northwest hills of West Granby and saw the airship from Germany flying below the clouds, about 500 feet from the ground. Shattuck was watching the infamous Hindenburg fly over the farming community of West Granby. Shattuck, eldest son of the famed painter, Aaron Shatttuck, had read that the Hindenburg was making trips from Germany to the United States and, in the weeks around the 9th, the zeppelin was flying from New Jersey to Hartford and to Boston and back.
The Hindenburg was built in 1936 and carried passengers from Germany to the United States and South America. The Hindenburg was 804 feet long and 135 feet wide. At capacity, it carried 72 passengers and 61 crew members. Its fastest speed was 84 miles per hour, but it normally cruised at 78 miles per hour. The average trip from Germany to the United States took 58 hours. The cost of a ticket to fly the dirigible was 450 dollars.
In its short career, the Hindenburg made 63 trips before disaster struck in Manchester Township, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. It was docking on a moor and an electric spark occurred creating the hydrogen-filled airship to explode and burn to the ground. Thirty five people died and 62 people survived. This disaster stopped all passenger travel by airbus from Germany to the United States.
From 1936 to 1939, William Shattuck kept a diary that he used to document his life, including witnessing the Hindenburg. He lived on West Granby Road, diagonally across from Carl Green’s house, the brownstone house on the corner of West Granby Road and Barndoor Hills Road. In his diary, Shattuck recorded the temperature, weather conditions, and what he and his wife would be doing on that day. In some entries, he would record the events of others, a baby being born or someone who had died.
William Shattuck was not a young man when he started recording his events. He was 71 years old, having been born in 1864. He was an author and printer by trade. He had been married 38 years to Jessie Holcombe and they had five children, only three of whom lived through adulthood. The other two died before they turned eighteen, one from Bright’s disease and the other from appendicitis. William would live seven years after he stopped writing his diary. He died in 1946 and is buried in the Granby Cemetery.
The Salmon Brook Historical Society is very fortunate to have this primary source, giving us a glimpse of what happened in Granby eighty-seven years ago. Granby, a farming community for over two hundred years, and now a suburb of the city of Hartford, has quite a history, including this famous airship flying over our town, which made history for its disastrous crash.
Want to learn more about the Hindenburg or the Shattuck family? Come join the Salmon Brook Historical Society by calling 860-653-9713 or go online at www.salmonbrookhistoricalsociety.com.