Kingsford Smith and the first trans-Pacific flight, 1928

People lined up along a Brisbane street to see Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 135100

People lined up along a Brisbane street to see Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 135100

On June 9, 1928, a massive crowd gathered at Eagle Farm Aerodrome to welcome and congratulate Brisbane born aviator Charles Kingsford Smith along with fellow Australian pilot Charles Ulm and two Americans, radio operator James Warner and navigator Harry Lyon, after completing the first trans-Pacific flight in their three-engined Fokker plane, theĀ Southern Cross. Kingsford Smith and his crew left Oakland, California on May 31 and completed the flight in three stages, covering 11,585 kilometres.

Kingsford Smith's Southern Cross in the centre of a huge crowd when he landed at Brisbane after flying from San Francisco. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61843

Kingsford Smith’s Southern Cross in the centre of a huge crowd when he landed at Brisbane after flying from San Francisco. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61843

The Sunday Mail reported the enthusiasm of the Brisbane crowd as the Southern Cross came into sight at Eagle Farm –

“A lusty cheer rose from the great assemblage as the machine came overhead, hats were flung in the air, and scarves and newspapers were sent skywards as the monoplane, her escorts scattering to make way, lost ground rapidly. Her single wings, with the great body of blue and the number “1985” stood out boldly as the machine encircled the aerodrome, and made for the lower end of the field…Despite the presence of barriers, there was some crushing at this point, and the public’s desire to get an early glimpse of the world flyers was not to be appeased by a few dozen police, for as with one accord the spectators gathered round with calls for “Smithy” and the other members”.

The Sunday Mail article also details a moment when Kingsford Smith had a garland of roses placed around his neck by a politician’s wife.

“There was a pleasant interlude as Mrs Sizer (wife of Mr H.F. Sizer, MLA, representing the State Opposition) placed a floral wreath of roses round Captain Kingford Smith’s neck and whispered a short speech of welcome to his ear, and the gallant warrior, blushing somewhat at such a tribute, sought solace in a cigarette…”.

Relaxed portrait of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith on arrival in Brisbane in 1928 after his record breaking flight. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 68926

Relaxed portrait of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith on arrival in Brisbane in 1928 after his record breaking flight. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 68926

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, June 14, 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 702692-19280614-s001b

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, June 14, 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 702692-19280614-s001b

In 1936, a plaque dedicated to the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Captain T.P. Ulm and the first trans-Pacific flight was unveiled at Oakland Municipal Airport in California. Charles’ wife Mary Kingsford Smith visited the memorial in August of 1937.

Brisbane Mayor, Sir John Chandler (right) inspecting Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's Memorial at Oakland Airport in California, 1947. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 193389

Brisbane Mayor, Sir John Chandler (right) inspecting Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s Memorial at Oakland Airport in California, 1947. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 193389

In 1958, the Oakland City Council celebrated the 30th anniversary of the flight by decreeing June 9 as “Southern Cross Day” in Oakland. Prior to the event a resolution scroll announcing the forthcoming day and bearing the Oakland City Council seal was presented to San Francisco Australian Consul General Melville Marshall by Oakland Mayor Clifford E. Rishell. Along with the council’s seal, the resolution includes the signatures of the Mayor, Vice-Mayor and several council members. This original document is now part of State Library’s original materials collection. The scroll acknowledges the construction of a “permanent shrine” (Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial) at Brisbane Airport.

Resolution scroll for 'Southern Cross Day' by the Oakland City Council. From 3965 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers ca. 1920-1935. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Resolution scroll for ‘Southern Cross Day’ by the Oakland City Council, 1958. From 3965 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers ca. 1920-1935. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

“This unprecedented flight from Oakland, California to Australia brought recognition and prestige to our city and laid the foundation for the strong bonds of friendship which we feel for our good neighbors “down under…”, reads part of this document.

Greetings from the State of California - 30 anniversary of the first trans Pacific flight. From From 3965 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers ca. 1920-1935. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Greetings from the State of California – 30 anniversary of the first trans Pacific flight, 1958. From From 3965 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers ca. 1920-1935. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

SLQ also holds another document, possibly presented at the same time, which also acknowledges the historic flight and the upcoming opening of the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial. This document bears the seal of the Great State of California and the signature of Californian Secretary of State, Frank M. Jordan.

On August 17, 1958, the Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial at the Brisbane Airport was officially opened by Federal Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, in front of a crowd of 3,000 people. The two surviving crew members from the Southern Cross, James Warner and Harry Lyon were present at the opening. The memorial houses the Southern Cross plane.

Further SLQ collections related to the life of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

  • 3965 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers ca. 1920-1935 – a small collection of items from the old Kingsford Smith Memorial, consisting of textual, photographic and artefact items, including the resolution scroll from the Oakland City Council and the greetings from the State of California.
  • OM82-30 Charles Kingsford Smith Papers 1934 – this item consists of two sheets of notepaper from Lennon’s Hotel, Brisbane, one signed by C Kingsford Smith dated October 20th 1934, and the other bearing five signatures, dated 1934.
  • OM92-118 Kingsford Smith Family Scrapbook ca. 1930 – possibly compiled by one of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s brothers. This cutting book contains an eclectic selection of articles including birth, deaths, and marriage notices, sections of poetry, pithy saying, medical remedies, recipes and gardening hints.
  • 28311 Charles Kingsford-Smith and Evert van Dijk Southern Cross Flight Manuscript 1930 – Bound manuscript in German entitled Personliche Erinnerungen an die Southern Cross und an die Kuhnen Ozeanflieger Kingsford-Smith & van Dijk [Personal memories of the Southern Cross and the Daring Ocean-aviators Kingsford Smith and van Dijk]. These memories relate to the flight undertaken by Charles Kingsford Smith, Evert van Dijk and Saul Smith, in the Fokker F. VIIb-3m Southern Cross from Portmarnock in Ireland across the Atlantic Ocean to New York, in June 1930.
  • Digitised photographs related to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

Further reading

Myles Sinnamon – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland