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Chamberlin Flies the Atlantic: Iowa Time Machine June 4, 1927

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On June 4, 1927, Denison’s Clarence Chamberlain flew non-stop from New York City to Germany to smash the world continuous flight record. The 3,905-mile flight in 42 hours and 31 minutes, ten hours longer than Charles Lindbergh’s recent first flight across the Atlantic.

Chamberlin developed an interest in mechanical things while working on his family’s car, the first automobile owned by a Denison resident. Chamberlin, the son of a jeweler, also developed his fascination with intricate systems while tinkering with watches and clocks in his father’s shop. He attended Denison High School and the Denison Normal and Business College.

Chamberlin left college in 1914 to open a Harley-Davidson shop in Denison. The business thrived; by 1916, he added automobiles and tires to the dealership. When the Great War started, Chamberlin enlisted in the Army Signal Corps in the hopes of training as an aviator. Encouraged by the recruiter to try his skills as a military balloonist, Chamberlin declined and returned to Denison while he waited for a slot in military flight school. 

On March 16, 1918, he received orders to report to the School of Military Aeronautics at Champaign, Illinois. By July 15, 1918, Chamberlin completed school and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Signal Air Corps. By the time he finished out of flight school, the war also found itself at an end. Returning to Denison, the young pilot bought an airplane from famous early aviator Giuseppe Mario Bellanca for $4,000. Chamberlin made a living barnstorming around the county to showcase his plane and flying skills, even offering rides to daring individuals willing to shell out $15. He also supplemented his income working as a flight instructor, air-mail pilot, aerial photographer, and refurbisher of surplus Army planes. 

Looking for greater riches and fame led to endurance flights. Taking off from Roosevelt Field in New York City in April of 1927, Chamberlin lifted off with 375 gallons of fuel and cruised the skies over Long Island for the following 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 25 seconds to set a world record. The flight prepared Chamberlin for a hoped-for excursion from New York to Paris to capture the $25,000 Raymond Orteig Prize offered to the first aviator to complete the journey. 

Ultimately, Charles Lindbergh captured the prize by flying “The Spirit of St. Louis” across the Atlantic in May 1927. Chamberlin piloted “Miss Columbia” from New York to Germany on June 4, marking the second fixed-wing Trans-Atlantic flight and the first to carry a passenger. The flight also set a new distance record of 3,911 miles in 42 hours and 45 minutes. A true aviation pioneer, Chamberlin accomplished another ‘first’ when he used the SS Leviathan as the first ship to serve as a runway. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD


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