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Zeppelins, Dirigibles, and Blimps

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The Hindenburg over Rio de Janiero.

Those bright red, white and black billboard sized swastika emblems on the tail where very visible from the ground and afar. The Hitler regime, which often showed a gift for PR, got considerable advertisement for itself before the global public when it's big, impressive looking airships toured the world bearing the symbol of the New Germany. Hitler was none too keen on the airship concept, accepting these civilian Zeppelins as a legacy development from the previous regime. He felt that fixed wing aircraft would prove to be far more valuable and useful in his coming war.






The gn?dige Herren und Damen taking in the view through some mighty big picture windows. Sure beats the tiny porthole sized openings available to modern air travelers! These "gn?dige" folk were used to being respectfully addressed; after all they were the cream of society and could afford anything they wished. Such passage was quite a travel fashion statement: a one way translatlantic jaunt cost $1,500, about $25,000 in today's money!



Drawing room elegance in the dining area of the Graf Zeppelin. The Graf was a 1920's project with more old fashioned decor. The 1930's vintage Hindenburg featured more contemporary, Art Moderne inspired interiors.






Both of the German airships made regular runs to South America, at a time when airplanes were not yet up to such long distances and proles were forced to go there by long, long boat rides. The idea of flying to Rio in great comfort and luxury was alluring to people, and pictures like this were widely published at the time.



"3 days to South America" says the company poster. In an era before jet travel, that was a radical acceleration in travel time.




Quite a spacious dining area for a flying craft! The lengthy table is oddly reminiscent of a German beer hall. What a networking experience this must have afforded a 1%-er to meet other moneyed people.



Real service (hopefully with a smile, given the steep ticket price!), real food, cooked by a real gourmet chef- the real deal.



Good lord, they could even open those massive windows and let in some fresh air; something out of the question with today's pressurised air cabins. The ability of a ship like this to hover over a scenic target gave it a considerable sightseeing advantage over an airplane. With these massive windows and walking areas, passengers certainly had less sense of being cooped up and confined.







The main lounge of the Hindenburg.



Another shot that promoted the romance of airship travel. Any famous and scenic spot or attraction on earth was reachable by these airships, at a time when airplane service to many destinations was limited. The fellahin had to be impressed by this sight in the sky. Shot appears to have been taken atop the Cheops pyramid.



Mail delivery aboard the zeppelins was secured by the purchase of stamps such as this. That 65 cent price was way more than the penny or two charged by regular snail mail, and came to about $11 in today's money. Today these zeppelin air mail stamps are among the most valuable in the stamp collecting hobby.



Quite a shot of a crewman being let down the side of the Graf Zeppelin to make repairs to the outside fabric. Great view, great danger! Hope that rope holds! That's the South Atlantic Ocean a few thousand feet below!



I can't help it, the subject of airships has always fascinated me; made further appealing by the shortcomings and discomfort of modern air travel. The idea of a luxury ocean liner experience up in the sky, complete with real food, a real bed, a private closed door stateroom with a large picture window, spacious public areas and a chance to meet and interact with people in a civilised way, had and continues to have great romantic appeal.


Throughout the 20's and most of the 30's, airships symbolised modernity as their reach was global. They could go anywhere and stationarily hover over anything interesting. In their time, they were a glamorous fashion statement for well heeled travelers.


I rue the fact that the idea of an ocean liner experience in the sky has not been revived since the ill fated Hindenburg disaster. The airship as flying cruiseboat could be made very workable and safe given modern materials, design know how and of course, the use of helium. Development and construction would be expensive, but i think there is a market of affluent travelers that woud pay a big premium for comfort and style over the mere speed and cattle herding efficiency of modern jets.


To heck with a "first class" lazyboy chair or a punishment seat in coach! I want a bed with my own room! I want privacy and a place to change my clothes! I want real food prepared by a chef that takes requests! I don't want to just walk down the aisle and have nowhere to go but the washroom! I want a dance floor and a promenade deck!



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Well, Airship Ventures in San Francisco operated a Zeppelin NT (NT stands for new technology. Goodyear has basically bought three of them to replace their fleet of blimps) named Eureka for four years.


Unfortunately, they ceased operations in late 2012 for various reasons (Including an huge rise in the price of helium due to a world shortage of the gas. Too bad they didn't know about the TCM Message Board. They could've used all the hot air here to float the airship...):




The zeppelin was very expensive to operate and so ticket prices ranged from $495 U.S. per hour per person taxes, etc. to $950 U.S. for two hours per person taxes, etc....


There were deals such as a "standby" rate of $375 U.S. per person per hour or a "couples special" at $745 U.S. for one hour.


The prices above were in 2009, but towards the end of operations, they dropped to about $375 U.S. per person per 45 minutes with variations.

Corporate sponsorship (advertising on the sides of the zeppelin, etc.) helped lower prices for passengers (the lack of a major sponsor was the main reason the "Eureka" ceased operations in 2012).


Airship Ventures was able to rent an old airship hangar at Moffett Field that was built in World War 2 to house US Navy airships and is one of the largest wooden structures (used wood due to steel shortage during the war) in the United States:



The Eureka had 12 seats and the windows could be opened, even in the washroom...

Passengers could wander around and they could eat and drink.

But no chefs, sleeping compartments, etc...


The website for Airship Ventures is here:



The company blog with archived photos here:



Edited by: RMeingast on Mar 24, 2014 7:45 AM

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Here's a dress you could wear, Thelma:




This website also has lots of other information about airships past and present: http://www.airships.net/zeppelin-nt


And there was a Zeppelin NT flying over Tokyo for some time, but the Japanese company went bankrupt:



I remember the Zeppelin NT for Japan was to fly from Germany over Russia to Japan, tracing the route the Graf Zeppelin flew in 1929:



But the Russians delayed things so much that the Zeppelin NT had to turn back to Germany and ended up going by ship to Japan.


Anyway, there is a Zeppelin NT currently flying over Paris:



A 30 minute "first flight" special is 250 euros per person/ $345 U.S.



Edited by: RMeingast on Mar 24, 2014 8:46 AM

Euro sign didn't appear...

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Thanks, RMeingast, for creating this thread, and thanks, Thelma Todd, for those wonderful photographs. It's eye popping to see those luxurious interiors of some of those '30s airships. I particularly love that pyramid-view shot of a zeppelin. Makes you realize how the world was starting to become smaller (for the affluent, at least) through air travel.

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Better than falling out of a zeppelin to answer you.

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No, and we'll never see that again... People may see a Russian flag, or a Chinese flag - or a Canadian flag - over New York someday but not that symbol...


One way ticket price (Frankfurt am Main to Lakehurst) on the Hindenburg was about 1,000 RM in 1937 or about $450 U.S. at the time (one-way trip took roughly 50-60 hours):




$450 U.S. in 1937 is about $7,300.00 in 2014 U.S. dollars (using one way to calculate the amount)...


Another way to measure the value is that you'd almost have enough to buy a new Ford Coupe car for $450 U.S in 1937...


It was a lot of money in those days, anyway...

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*MADAM SATAN (1930)*


MGM Dir. by Cecil B. DeMille, w/ Kay Johnson, Lilian Roth, Reginald Denny, Roland Young


*Musical Interludes from "Madam Satan" 1930*




19 min.


*Madam Satan Cecil B deMille 'Ballet Mecanique'*




3 min.




This film leaves me almost speechless! I've posted more than the usual number of illustrative stills here, as the visuals almost compel me to. They give you some idea of what a strange experience the viewer is in for.


The first half of the film is an amusing bedroom farce. The latter half shows an art deco themed zeppelin party where everyone ends up having to abandon ship (it's a comedy so no one gets killed.). A very whimsical take on the then current popularity and mystique of airships. A "Jazz Age" Out Of Control! Features Lillian Roth, who had her real life troubles with alcoholism recounted in her autobiographies I'll Cry Tomorrow (1954), made into a film by the same title the year after starring Susan Hayward, and Beyond My Worth (1958)


*Madam Satan (1930*) is a dramatic pre-Code musical film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille for MGM, one of the few DeMille made for the Culver City studio. It has been called one of the oddest films DeMille made and certainly one of the oddest MGM made during its "golden age."



Angela and Bob Brooks are an upper class couple. Unfortunately, Bob is an unfaithful husband. But Angela has a plan to win back her husband's affections. An elaborate masquerade ball is to be held aboard a magnificent dirigible. Angela will attend and disguise herself as a mysterious devil woman. Hidden behind her mask, and wrapped in an alluring gown, Angela as the devil woman will to try to seduce her unknowing husband and teach him a lesson.




The above was mined from my thread in *Your Favorites*:








We can't bring up the subject of airships around here without mentioning this very strange and whimsical relic of an exploitation film!


The idle rich, having their decadent zeppelin party broken up by a storm! It's a comedy/musical, so nothing really grim happens.


The sets and costume design were outrageous and over the top, even for the time. The pictures above speak louder than words!


TCM has shown this classic before. You may want to let them know to air it again, and have your recorder ready!




Hi RMeingast- thanks for the dress suggestion! That looks like a very vintage item. That kind of thing is very popular on the vintage market, and I think it should be revived by some clothing line!


Reviving airships to the level of spaciousness and comfort of the Hindenburg doesn't appear to be in the works. The original Zeppelin company required heavy subsidies from the German government to pull off it's big projects.


Hi Tom, Thank you very much! I walk with a loaded pistol around here!


Hi Hamradio- Or how often do we get away with posting swastika images on the TCM boards! Talk about needing the cover of a vintage film, picture or theme!



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Always fun to see your enthusiasm, Thelma.


I watched Madam Satan a few years ago. For all those who want to party on a zeppelin, this film is for you!


Trivial addition: Years ago, while in an antiques store, I came across and purchased an autograph album, which the owner of the store didn't quite know what to do with and sold for a song. It had about a dozen or so signatures in it of once famous '30s luminaries of stage and screen. (Some of them are still well known today, including Mary Pickford, Walter Huston and Lillian Gish).


Among the signatures was that of Lillian Roth.

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Hi Tom!


A dozen or so signatures of big name show people? Sounds like you should have that find appraised!


Madam Satan is such a delightfully bizarre film! It's regrettable that Lilian Roth's ability to function in the business ended shortly thereafter.


Like all really good, born show people, she projects something from within herself whether she was singing or acting. I read both of her autobiographies; the first was her descent into a personal hell, the second a hopeful tome about her recovery.

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Pardon me for momentarily sidetracking this thread, Thelma, in reference to that small autograph album I found. One of the fun aspects of it was trying to make out some of the signatures, and afterward verifying them by looking them up the on the internet.


I stared at one for quite a while before suddenly realizing that I was looking at the signature of Tom Mix! And Lillian Gish's autograph I at first entirely missed because she signed it very small in a corner of a page that was dominated by the autograph of someone called Lois Wilson (still not quite certain who she was).


Olsen and Johnson not only co-signed their autographs on one page but one of them also drew a comic doodle on it, as well. (Still can't quite make out what the image is supposed to be).

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