Graf Zeppelin Begins Round-the-World Journey from New Jersey
On August 8, 1929, the Graf Zeppelin departed the airfield in Lakehurst, New Jersey, to return 12 days later.
The first attempt to fly the zeppelin around the globe began on May 14 of that year. Engine troubles forced the Graf to land in France, after which it was returned to Germany. Mail that was carried aboard this initial flight received a note stating “Beförderung verzögert wegen Abbruchs der 1. Ameriksfaht.” (“Delivery delayed due to cancellation of the 1st America trip”). This is sometimes called the “Interrupted America Flight.”
The zeppelin finally left Friedrichshafen on August 1 and arrived safely in Lakehurst on August 5. Though the flight had begun in Germany, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst made a deal with the trip’s planner and pilot Dr. Hugo Eckener to claim Lakehurst as the trip’s starting point. Hearst had supplied much of the necessary funds to make the trip possible, and also got exclusive reporting rights.
So the trip from Lakehurst began on August 8, passing the Statue of Liberty, one of Hearst’s requirements. The crew of 40, plus 22 passengers and thousands of pieces of mail, reached Friedrichshafen on August 10. From there it made stops in Japan and Los Angeles before returning to Lakehurst on August 29. The 21-day, 5 1/2-hour trip was the fastest up to that point.
Thousands of people around the world looked to the skies to watch the Graf fly over their homes. When it returned to Lakehurst, Dr. Eckener was honored with a ticker-tape parade and he was called the “Magellan of the Air.” He then returned to Friedrichshafen on September 4, after more than a month of piloting the zeppelin around the world.
The popularity of this trip created “Zeppelin Mania” and inspired several later flights. The following year, the Graf Zeppelin made another trip across the Atlantic, and the U.S. issued three stamps (including the one pictured above) to frank mail on that flight.
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