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Coin Portrait of the Week # 25


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The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was a large dirigible, or more specifically, a rigid airship in the early 20th century. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who held the rank of Graf or Count in the German nobility (in German usage the "von" in a name is omitted when a title such as "Graf" is employed). It flew for the first time on September 18, 1928 and, with a total length of 236.6 m (776 ft) and volume of 105,000 m³ (3,708,040 ft³), was the largest airship up to that time. It was powered by 5 Maybach 550 HP engines that ran on Blau gas and could carry a payload of 60 metric tonnes.


Initially it was to be used for experimental and demonstration purposes to prepare the way for regular airship traveling, but also carried passengers and mail to cover the costs. In October 1928 the first long-range voyage led the craft to Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the crew was welcomed enthusiastically with confetti parades in New York and invitations to the White House. Later Graf Zeppelin toured in Germany and visited Italy, Palestine and Spain. A second trip to the United States was aborted in France due to engine failure in May 1929.


In August 1929, LZ 127 departed for another daring enterprise: a complete circumnavigation of the globe. The growing popularity of the “giant of the air” made it easy for Zeppelin company chief Dr. Hugo Eckener to find sponsors. One of these was the American press tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who requested the tour to officially start in Lakehurst. As with the October 1928 flight to New York, Hearst had placed a reporter, Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay, on board who therefore became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by air. Starting there on August 8, Graf Zeppelin flew across the Atlantic back to Friedrichshafen. She stopped there to refuel before continuing across vast Siberia to another stop in Tokyo. Dr. Eckener believed that some of the lands they crossed in Siberia had never before been seen by modern explorers. From Japan, the Graf Zeppelin continued across the Pacific to San Francisco, before heading south to stop at Los Angeles. This was the first ever nonstop flight of any aircraft across the Pacific Ocean. The ship continued thence across the United States, over Chicago and back to Lakehurst on August 29. The entire voyage took 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes. Including the initial and final trips from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst and back, the dirigible travelled 49,618 km (30,831 miles). The distance travelled between departure from Lakehurst and return to Lakehurst was 31,400 km (19,500 miles).


One of Hearst's guests onboard was the newlywed couple; the arctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins and his bride Suzanne Bennett. The trip was given to them as a wedding gift. In the following year, Graf Zeppelin undertook a number of trips around Europe, and following a successful tour to South America in May 1930, it was decided to open the first regular transatlantic airship line. The ship pursued another spectacular destination in July 1931 with a research trip to the Arctic; this had already been a dream of Count Zeppelin twenty years earlier, which could not, however, be realized at the time due to the outbreak of war. In October of 1933, the Graf Zeppelin made an appearance at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. Despite the beginning of the Great Depression and growing competition by fixed-wing aircraft, LZ 127 would transport an increasing number of passengers and mail across the ocean every year until 1936.


Eckener intended to supplement the successful craft by another, similar Zeppelin, projected as LZ 128. However the disastrous accident of the British passenger airship R 101 in 1931 led the Zeppelin company to reconsider the safety of hydrogen-filled vessels, and the design was abandoned in favor of a new project. LZ 129, which was to eventually be named the Hindenburg, would advance Zeppelin technology considerably and was intended to be filled with helium. The embargo by the United States because of the looming war prevented German access to the required large quantities of helium, and the Hindenburg was fatefully converted to a hydrogen design.


After the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, public faith in the security of dirigibles was shattered, and flying passengers in hydrogen-filled vessels became untenable. LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was retired one month past the disaster and turned into a museum. The end for the Graf Zeppelin came with the outbreak of World War II. In March 1940, Nazi Hermann Göring, the German Air minister (Reichsluftfahrtminister), ordered the destruction of the remaining dirigibles, and the aluminium parts were fed into the German war industry.


During its career, the ship flew more than 1 million miles and made 144 ocean crossings (143 across the Atlantic, 1 across the Pacific) with a perfect passenger safety record.




The Zeppelin flight was commemorated by several nations postage stamps, notably Germany and the United States, but importantly for numismatists, Germany commemorated the event with 3 and 5 RM coins in 1930.

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wow...I did not realize that those craft went such distances. I think I would be a bit concerned floating over the open ocean in a hydrogen filled balloon though it must have been a thrill :ninja: Still its a bit amazing that one failed flight (admittedly a disaster) would pull the shutter on the concept....pesky war as well.


I assume such things today are just used as curios....I lucked into a flight on the Goodyear blimp. A next door neighbors father got tickets and my friends brother, amazingly, didnt want to go...had better things to do.... so I went. It was a very different feeling to be floating in a pod strapped to a balloon. I was even allowed to sit in the front passenger seat and watch the pilot steer that thing with foot peddles.

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ahhh <3 i wish i can fly in these things over an ocean xD nice post scott ;)

Errm, think of the Lake of Constance as an ocean, and you can do that. :ninja: (Those zeppelins http://www.zeppelin-nt.de/images/zeppgross.jpg are not blimps but siblings of the ones built in the last century.) Flights start in Friedrichshafen where the zeppelins are built http://www.zeppelinflug.de/pages/E/fluege_inhalt.htm


As for this "Graf" and "von" thing, well, the German Historic Museum (DHM) lists him as "Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin" http://www.dhm.de/lemo/html/biografien/ZeppelinFerdinand/ and here is a picture of his grave in Stuttgart http://www.stuttgart-im-bild.de/html/ferdi...n_zeppelin.html ... Then again, in today's Germany those former nobility titles are simply part of the name.


Anyway, that coin sure is a nice piece. (Don't have any of the two yet.) And thanks for the story!



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Most Americans do not know that the US Navy operated large dirigible airships at the same time, the USS Saratoga, the USS Los Angeles, the USS Akron and the USS Macon. The latter two were actually airship aircraft carriers, they had hooks that they latched Boeing F4B fighters on, each of them carried 4 aircrafts.


The USS Los Angeles was built by Zeppelin Reederie in Germany as the LZ-126 in 1924, she was flown to the USA in 1924 as part of the German reparations after WWI, her service with the US Navy was the most notable and successful, curiously the only US dirigible that was not built in the USA.




The USS Los Angeles was built as a hydrogen lifted dirigible, but was converted to helium on arrival at Lakehurst NJ in 1925, but the conversion to helium resulted in less lift, and performance was not optimal compared to the hydrogen lifted German dirigibles. The USS Los Angeles was decomissioned in 1932, but placed in reserve until 1937. While in operation it was used primarily as an overhead observation platform, with a long loiter time it surpassed any aircrafts performance.


Whilst the other dirigibles operated by the Navy were lost in accidents, the Los Angeles never suffered an accident.

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