Pressurized Gondola on the Street in Washington D.C

ID: SIA2011-2366 or 32233-3

Creator: Tolman, Ruel P (Ruel Pardee) 1878-1954

Form/Genre: Photographic print

Date: April 15, 1936

Citation: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7433, Box 3, Folder: Ruel P. Tolman Collection, Scrapbook A-N

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Photograph of four people in hats and coats are examining a pressurized gondola on the sidewalk in Washington, D.C. The vessel is light on the top half and dark on the lower half, with a porthole and partially visible marking of "...phic Society." The gondola is sitting on wooden boards and is surrounded by a two-rail pipe railing. Cars are parked along the road. There are bare trees growing along the sidewalk on both sides of the street. On the opposite side of the street are a four-story building with a balustrade and a five-story building with pedimented windows and a mansard roof. This image was taken on the occasion of a lecture given by polar explorer and benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Ellsworth, on his recent discovery that the continent of Antarctica is a single continent.


  • Ellsworth, Lincoln
  • National Geographic Society
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • United States Army Air Corps


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


  • Image taken by Ruel P. Tolman, former Director of Smithsonian National Collection of Fine Arts, and is included in Section N of a scrapbook of photographs of Smithsonian staff, grounds and buildings, exhibitions, and Washington D.C. scenes. Pencil inscriptions in the scrapbook page read "Lincoln Ellsworth Lecture April 15, 1936" and "National Geographic."
  • This gondola is one of the two "Explorer" vessels operated by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Army Air Corps. When in operati on, the gondola would have been attached to a large balloon in order to ascend to altitudes of 50,000 to 72,000 feet. "Explorer" was launched on July 27, 1934 and "Explorer II" was launched on November 11, 1935. The Hubbard Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society was presented by General John J. Pershing to Captain Albert W. Stevens and Captain Orvil A. Anderson of the Army Air Corps, in recognition of their ascent into the stratosphere on November 11, when they reached an official altitude of 72,395 feet.
  • Information on lecture found in newspaper "Lincoln Ellsworth's Theories On Antarctic." (1936, April 17). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 25. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from The content of the lecture was published by Lincoln Ellsworth in "My Flight Across the Antarctic," in National Geographic Magazine, ISSN 1044-6613, 07/1936, Volume 70, p. 1.
  • Fascinated with polar air exploration, Lincoln Ellsworth was an American explorer, engineer, and scientist who led the first trans-Arctic (1926) and trans-Antarctic (1935) air crossings.
  • See also negatives SIA2011-2365 and SIA2011-2367.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7433, Box 3, Folder: Ruel P. Tolman Collection, Scrapbook A-N

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


April 15, 1936

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions


  • Explorers
  • Street photography
  • Buildings, structures, etc
  • Architecture
  • Automobile parking
  • Persons
  • Transportation, Automotive
  • Clothing and dress
  • Outdoor photography
  • Motor vehicles
  • Automobiles
  • Buildings


  • District of Columbia
  • United States
  • Washington (D.C.)
  • Washington


  • Photographic print
  • Group, candid
  • Exterior
  • Architecture

ID Number

SIA2011-2366 or 32233-3

Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Sepia; Size: 2.25w x 2.25h; Type of Image: Exterior; group, candid; Medium: Photographic print

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