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Adams, Clara, 1884-1971



  • Existence: December 3, 1884 - February 10, 1971

Biographical Information

Clara Adams (1884-1971) was a strong supporter of commercial aviation in its early days. She frequently flew as a passenger on early commercial airliners and inaugural flights, some of the most famous being the Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127) and the Hindenburg (LZ-129) and was acquainted with many famous aviators, one being Amelia Earhart.

Adams was born to German parents on December 3, 1884 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father, Walter Grabau, was a professor of music at the Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany where she would later study. Clara married George Lincoln Adams, president of the American Leather Tanning Company, who was 40 years her senior. He died in 1929, leaving Clara with the wealth to pursue her passion in aviation.

Adams' interest in flying started in 1914 with her first flight. She flew in a Thomas flying boat with pilot Captain Walter E. Johnson. Through her interest and familial connections, Adams became acquainted with German pilots and airship designers such as Dr. Hugo Eckener, Dr. Ludwig Duerr, and Dr. Claude Dornier.

Adams flew on numerous commercial airliners and had many firsts as a passenger. In 1928, she became the first woman to purchase a ticket to fly across the Atlantic. She was also the only woman to fly on the inaugural round trip of the Graf Zeppelin, which started in Germany and took 71 hours. In 1931, she was the only paying woman to fly on the Dornier Do X from Rio de Janeiro to New York and in May 1936, was one of eleven women on board the maiden flight of the Hindenburg from Germany to the United States. Adams even set a new passenger record for a round-the-world flight via regular airlines. From June 18th to July 15th, she flew 24,609 miles in sixteen days and nineteen hours.

Clara Adams died on February 10, 1971.


Clara Adams papers, Biographical sketch. (2018). University of Texas at Dallas. Retrieved from:


Clara Adams. (2017). Retrieved from:

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Collection of materials related to Clara Adams, Marian Anderson, and women's rights

 Unprocessed — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 20190522