Richard E. Byrd claimed to have beaten them by a few days, flying over the pole in an airplane. But that was later disputed. History has a way of changing its mind like that. Byrd was a hero, then; now he’s a fraud, maybe. Times change.
The story of Nobile’s arrival ran in the Chicago Daily News next to an article on Zenith testing short wave radio — that’s where I bumped into him. Much new technology debuted in Chicago: VHS tape was first demonstrated here, cell phones, too. On July 8, 1926, while Nobile was arriving at LaSalle Street station, Zenith engineers in a freight yard in Englewood were showing off a new marvel, short wave radio, to communicate between the engine and the caboose of a New York Central freight train a mile long.
I was rooting around in the past because the University of Chicago Press asked me to write a book offering 366 historical vignettes, one for each day of the year. But only one. Which demands choices, often hard choices. Reading the Nobile story, I thought maybe I should drop the radio breakthrough and go with the dashing aviator instead. He certainly was a big deal at the time. Hundreds of Chicagoans cheered as he stepped down from the Golden State Limited.
“Mussolini himself could hardly have received a more noisy ... welcome,” noted the Daily News, name checking the Italian dictator who had remade Italy into a totalitarian state and cult of personality.
“Black-shirted fascisti rushed up to him and extended their arms in the fascist salute,” the newspaper noted. “They shouted the fascist cry of Italian loyalty.”
A band played and songs were sung, then Nobile had some remarks.
“All of us are fascists,” he said. “It is a new Italy.”
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