Little Bits of History

Lighter Than Air

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 2, 2014
LZ 1 - Luftschiff Zeppelin

LZ 1 – Luftschiff Zeppelin

July 2, 1900: The first Zeppelin flight takes place over Lake Constance. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s interest in airships began in 1874 after hearing Heinrich von Stephan speak on “World Postal Services and Air Travel” outlining ways to get the mail through faster. Zeppelin made a diary entry on March 25 of that year outlining his interest in the topic and describing a large rigid-framed envelope filled with separate gasbags. Zeppelin had first encountered air balloons when he witnessed the US Union Army using them for reconnaissance in 1863. In 1890 and after his retirement from the military at the age of 52, Zeppelin began to seriously work on his development of an airship.

He worked on a few design ideas and had detailed ones completed by 1893. An official committee examined them in 1894 and he received a patent on August 31, 1895 based on technical drawing from Theodor Kober. The patent was granted for a “steerable airship-train with several carrier structures arranged one behind the other.” The front section housed the crew and engines with the middle and back sections intended for useful load carrying. The overall length was 568.5 feet and the useful payload was 5,720 pounds. He was unable to get government funding for the project but the Union of German Engineers supported the endeavor. Zeppelin hoped to get Carl Berg’s help but he first had to extricate himself from a contract with a different airship manufacturer.

In 1898, Zeppelin founded the Society for the Promotion of Airship Flight contributing more than half of the initial 800,000 mark capital himself. Construction of the first airship began in 1899 at Lake Constance. It was built in a floating assembly-hall to help with freeing it after construction. With the floating hall, it could be aligned with the wind and allow for the airship to be removed. LZ 1 (Luftschiff Zeppelin or Zeppelin Airship) was 420 feet long with a hydrogen capacity of 400,000 cubic feet. It was powered by two 15 horsepower Daimler engines, each driving a propeller mounted on either side of the envelope which allowed for steering.

The first flight took place on this day and the ship was successfully airborne but damaged during the landing. The airship was repaired and two more flights were made later in the year on October 17 and 24 and beat the speed of six meters per second (13.4 mph) record previously held by the French airship, La France. Despite these successes, shareholders were reluctant to invest more money and so the company was liquidated with Zeppelin purchasing the ship and equipment. Although he wished to continue, he was unable to do so (at this time) and dismantled the ship in 1901. The story was, of course, not yet finished.

What do I do when we’re not taping? Sit in a dark room and refine my plans for someday ruling Earth from a blimp. And chess. – Ryan Stiles

A full-grown manatee, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp. – Dave Barry

You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky. – Amelia Earhart

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase

Also on this day: We Believe Good … Works – In 1962, the first Wal-Mart opens.
Did He See It Coming? – In 1566, Nostradamus died.
Lawnchair Larry – In 1982, Larry  Walters flew a lawn chair into history.
Mighty Mississippi – In 1679 – Daniel Graysolon, Sieur Du Luth reached the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

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