“Z” is for “Zeppelin”
A few decades ago I had a wonderful assignment.
I was to make a promotional film for Lufthansa on the region of Bavaria. I decided to feature the fascinating city of Friedrichshafen, on beautiful Lake Constance.
One of the things that made it fascinating to me was that this was where the Zeppelin dirigible airships were born; in fact, where old man Graf (Count) Zeppelin himself was born.
It is not generally remembered today that zeppelins – “rigid” airships, not “blimps” – were thought to be the next step in travel.
Way back before World War I, in other words a hundred years ago, you could take a regularly-scheduled zeppelin from one European city to another, just like you took the train.
Here’s a group of ladies enjoying their zeppelin flight around the year 1912.
By the 1920s the Germans had come up with the beautiful (and appropriately named) “Graf Zeppelin,” which regularly made trans-Atlantic flights. Passengers, above, are seen preparing to board in 1929 when the Graf Zeppelin sailed around the world.
The dining room during the round-the-world trip.
The U S got into the act, believing also that this represented the future of travel, and built a number of dirigibles; note the stamp from that era.
This all reached a peak with the creation of a now world-famous zeppelin, the magnificent “Hindenburg,” pride of Hitler’s Germany, in the thirties.
This ship was a grand deluxe hotel, floating through space. Above, the dining room.
Here’s a picture of the smoking room. Think of it: the airship was filled with hydrogen, which meant that in certain areas the lighting of a match, or even a spark of some kind, would blow the whole thing up -- but there was a smoking room.
On the left, a lounge where you could have casual conversation with friends under the benevolent gaze of the Fuehrer. On the right, the children’s playroom, which had a light-weight aluminum piano. Sad note: the hostess seen playing with the child died in the 1937 disaster.
Because that, of course, is what happened to the “Hindenburg” – disaster. It was on May 6, 1937, that the airship caught fire and was destroyed – it took only a little over 30 seconds – while trying to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey. No one is absolutely certain of the actual cause. More than that dirigible was destroyed on that day. The disaster shattered public confidence in giant zeppelins and it pretty well marked the end of the airship era.
1 year ago