1933 Dirigible crash kills 73 in New Jersey On this day in 1933, a dirigible crashes in New Jersey, killing 73 people in one of the first air disasters in history. The Akron was the largest airship built in the United States when it took its first flight in August 1931. In its short life of less than two years, it was involved in two fatal accidents. In 1932, the Akron made a flight from New Jersey to the Camp Kearny military base, near San Diego, California. It attempted to land in high winds, with three groups of 30 men each assigned to help pull in the blimp and secure it to the ground with ropes. But the Akron, which was filled with helium, began to rise again after the sailors had begun to secure it. Three men held on to their ropes as the Akron rose into the air; two of the three fell from 200 feet and were killed. The third man, Bud Cowart, managed to hold on at the end of the rope for two hours as the Akron dragged him 2,000 feet above the ground. Finally, the crew managed to pull him up into the airship through a porthole. The second accident involving the Akron occurred on April 4, 1933, while the U.S. Navy was using the airship to obtain some technical data over New Jersey. It was well-known that dirigibles could experience problems in bad weather, but despite the violent thunderstorms in the area that day, the Akron was not grounded. While in the air over the Atlantic Ocean, a miscommunication over directions by crew members sent the Akron directly into the storm instead of around it. The storm’s winds caused the ship to plunge nearly 1,000 feet in a few seconds. The crew then made its second mistake: the blimp’s water ballast was dumped in order to make the flying ship rise. However, the ballast dump thrust the Akron up too far, too fast. Critical devices and cables were destroyed and all control was lost. The Akron plunged into the ocean. The rescue airship J-3 was sent to help the Akron crew. It also crashed in of the storm, killing two of the seven crew members on board. Only three of the Akron‘s 76 crew members survived the disaster. One of the survivors was the commander who had ordered the fateful ballast dump. This was the deadliest air disaster since the crash of the first rigid airship built in the United States, the Shenandoah, which killed 14 people on September 3, 1925. 1913 Muddy Waters is born When Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, he permanently alienated a portion of his passionate fan base. When Muddy Waters went electric roughly 20 years earlier, he didn’t have a fan base to be concerned about, and those who did go to his shows probably had no quarrel with his motivation for plugging in, which was simply to play loud enough to be heard inside a raucous nightclub. Little could those lucky Chicagoans have known that they were hearing the birth of a style of blues that would become a fundamental part of their city’s cultural identity. Out of all the bluesmen plying their trade in the clubs of the Windy City in the late 40s and early 50s, none did more than Muddy Waters to create the Chicago Blues—the hard-driving, amplified, distinctly urban sound with roots in the rural Mississippi Delta, where Waters was born on this day in 1913. Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He played and sang at parties and fish fries from the age of 17, spending his days picking cotton on the Stovall Plantation for 50 cents a day. In 1941, folklorist Alan Lomax, on his famous trip through the Delta on behalf of the Library of Congress, discovered Waters and made the first recordings of his slide-guitar blues, released many years later as the “Plantation Recordings.” By 1944, Waters had joined the Great Migration that took African Americans by the hundreds of thousands north to cities like Chicago. It was there that his country blues evolved into the aggressive Chicago Blues exemplified on famous songs like “Rollin’ Stone,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and “Got My Mojo Working.” The first of those songs would later provide songwriting inspiration to Bob Dylan and the idea for a name to a famous British rock group. The Rolling Stones were just one of hundreds of blues-based groups that formed in England in the early 1960s, inspired in part by Muddy Waters’ records and by his tour of Britain in 1958. Waters would be regarded as a blues giant on the strength of his 1947-1958 Chess Records recordings alone, but it was the influence of those records on a young generation of British musicians that formed the basis for his inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born on this day in 1913, Muddy Waters died near his adopted hometown of Chicago on April 30, 1983. 1843 Yellowstone photographer William Jackson is born William Jackson is born in Keeseville, New York. His powerful photographs of Yellowstone helped make it the first national park. Jackson received no formal training in photography. As a young man, he began experimenting with simple cameras, and he gradually mastered the arcane skills needed to capture images on chemically prepared glass plates. In 1866, Jackson joined a wagon train and traveled west to California, lugging along his heavy camera equipment. The awesome size and ruggedness of the western landscape sparked his imagination, and he began to focus his efforts on what would later be termed “nature photography.” In 1871, Jackson’s ability to produce excellent images while working in primitive wilderness conditions attracted the attention of the geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden. Hayden convinced Jackson to join his government-sponsored expedition into the still relatively unknown wilds of the Yellowstone region in the northern Rocky Mountains. Earlier explorers of the area had returned with tales of towering geysers, vast canyons, and bubbling mud pots, but their stories and drawings of these natural wonders failed adequately to convey the beauty of Yellowstone. Hayden hoped Jackson could capture the miracles of Yellowstone on his photographic plates, so millions could enjoy the wonders seen by only a few. During 1871 to 1872, Jackson produced hundreds of brilliant photographs of Yellowstone while traveling with the Hayden expedition. For the first time, the American public saw accurate images of the area rather than paintings or drawings. The photographs offered visual proof that Yellowstone really was home to many awesome natural wonders. Thanks in no small part to Jackson’s photos, U.S. congressmen decided the Yellowstone region should be preserved in its natural state. On March 1, 1872, Congress established 1,221,773 acres of the Yellowstone area as the world’s first national park. After his work at Yellowstone, Jackson became one of the pioneering photographers of the American West. The magazine Harper’s Weeklycommissioned him to make a popular series of photographic reports on many sections of the West. Though he was also a successful painter, his photographs were far more influential in establishing the American visual understanding of the West.