Since 1918, the citizens of Fort Worth had been aware that the was a possibility the the U.S. Navy would establish a helium plant north of the city to service the huge airships or the rigid dirigible design that would soon be under construction. A strong source of helium, which unlike hydrogen won't burn, was the key to the new airship program. The best source was in the helium rich natural gas deposits around Petrolia, northeast of Wichita Falls near the Red River. After the field was proved a pipe line brought the natural gas to Fort Worth.
|1919-1920 Greater Fort Worth Map Clip <click image to enlarge>|
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|July, 1924 Dallas Morning News <Click image to enlarge>|
|May, 1924 Dallas Morning News|
The work was rushed and the facility began to take shape. The only question was when would the first airship visit to Fort Worth take place?
|September, 1924 Dallas Morning News|
|1925 Greater Fort Worth Map Clip <click image to enlarge>|
It was a great excuse for a Fort Worth party! Thousands turned out to watch the graceful ship maneuver in and out of its mooring as hundreds manned the ropes that dangled from the
|1924 Airship Shenandoah In Fort Worth|
From The Electric Books Collection
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|August, 1928, Dallas Morning news|
The large airships were slow, clumsy to maneuver, and could not withstand high winds and bad weather. Accidents happened. In 1937, the German owned Hindenburg Zeppelin which had never switched from hydrogen to helium partly due to U.S. government restrictions on the foreign sale of helium caught fire and killed 35 of its crew and passengers.
|March, 1938 Dallas Morning News|
As it has turned out, helium is one of the most valuable gases in use today and is becoming rare and very expensive. While still used in "blimps", its uses in industry are everywhere.
Airships and helium were a great and little known part of Fort Worth history in the first half of the 20th century...