Zeppelin Flown Covers of the World

From Stamps of the World

A Zeppelin was a type of rigid airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who pioneered rigid airship development at the beginning of the 20th century. Zeppelin's notions were first formulated in 1874 and developed in detail in 1893. They were patented in Germany in 1895 and in the United States in 1899. After the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the word zeppelin came to be commonly used to refer to all rigid airships.

Dated 1936-08-01, instructions for the agents soliciting/servicing covers for the upcoming Hindenburg flights, with a rubber-stamp on the back with some updated information about how they should be addressed.

The first zeppelin to carry mail was LZ 4, in July 1908, followed shortly by LZ 3. The early flights did not use any special markings; the first was an oval reading "LUFTSCHIFF / SIGNALPOST" around the edge and "Z III" in the center, used on LZ 6 (Z 3) from August to October 1909. By 1911 a number of different postmarks were in use; a typical example was a circle reading "AN BORD DES / ZEPPELIN / LUFTSCHIFFES", with a date in the center and the name of the zeppelin at bottom. These were actually applied on board the zeppelin while in flight, at a small postal station.

The zeppelins were taken into military service in 1914, and thereafter did not carry civilian mail, although military commanders had special handstamps applied to their mail. Zeppelins were first flown commercially in 1910 by Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG), the world's first airline in revenue service. By mid-1914, DELAG had carried over 10,000 fare-paying passengers on over 1,500 flights. During World War I the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts, killing over 500 people in bombing raids in Britain.

US 65-cent "Zeppelin" stamp, one of three values issued specially for the May–June 1930 Pan-American flight of the Graf Zeppelin.
(By Bureau of Engraving and Printing; photo/scan by User:Stan Shebs - U.S. Post Office, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=266109)

In the following years after WWI, Graf Zeppelin undertook trips around Europe; and following a successful tour to Recife, Brazil in May 1930, it was decided to open the first regular transatlantic airship line. This line operated between Frankfurt and Recife, and was later extended to Rio de Janeiro, with a stop in Recife. Despite the beginning of the Great Depression and growing competition from fixed-wing aircraft, LZ 127 transported an increasing volume of passengers and mail across the ocean every year until 1937. The ship made another spectacular voyage in July 1931 when it made a seven-day research trip to the Arctic. This had already been a dream of Count von Zeppelin twenty years earlier, which could not be realized at the time due to the outbreak of war. Eckener intended to follow the successful airship with another larger Zeppelin, designated LZ 128. This was to be powered by eight engines, 232 m (761 ft) in length, with a capacity of 199,980 m3 (7,062,100 cu ft). However the loss of the British passenger airship R101 on 5 October 1930 led the Zeppelin company to reconsider the safety of hydrogen-filled vessels, and the design was abandoned in favour of a new project, LZ 129. This was intended to be filled with inert helium.

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin had a long and celebrated career. Within weeks of its first flight in September 1928, the Graf Zeppelin carried the first airmail to go directly from Germany to the US and vice versa. Germany issued special 2-mark and 4-mark stamps for the occasion. On the return trip, the zeppelin carried almost 52,000 postcards and 50,000 letters. In 1929, Graf Zeppelin circled the globe, with stops in Tokyo and Los Angeles. By the time it was taken out of service in June 1937, the zeppelin had made 590 flights, each flight carrying up to 12 tons of mail to and from dozens of countries around the world.

Although LZ 129 Hindenburg is most famous for its fiery end, for the 14 months of its existence, it carried considerable amounts of mail overseas, and many of those are readily available today. Most of the 17,609 pieces of mail on the last flight were destroyed in the fire, but a handful were recovered, and today are highly prized crash covers.

The LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II was the last of the zeppelins to carry mail; it was in civilian service for only a few months, from October 1938 to August 1939, and made only 30 trips, all within Germany.

Zeppelin covers are highly collected and some have great rarity value, others can be picked up for a few dollars, making them both great Postal History on a affordable starter scale.

Countries that have issued stamps for use on Zeppelin mail were those where the airships went on route and picked up and dropped off mail. They are as follows:

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cyrennaica, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Leichtenstein, Paraguay, Russia, San Marino, Tripolitania and the United States of America. Adapted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeppelin_mail and other wiki sources.

Flugpost am Rhein und Main - Luftschiff "Bodensee" LZ-120 and Aircraft "Gelber Hund"

The "Bodensee" participated in an early air mail event in the summer of 1912 along with an airplane called the "Gelber Hund" ("Yellow Dog") Special stamps were issued but standard German postage was also required for delivery after carriage by the "Schwaben" or "Gelber Hund." The event was called the Flugpost am Rhein und Main (Airmail on the Rhine and Main).

postcard cancelled Frankfurt am Main carried on the Schwaben
postcard cancelled Mainz carried on the Schwaben
postcard cancelled Darmstadt carried by the Gelber Hund with stamps specially overprinted for this purpose

Luftschiff "Nordstern" LZ-121

ZR 3 "Los Angeles" LZ-126 / ZR-3)

Built by the Zeppelin Co. as a war reparation for the USA after the First World War, the ZR-3 was re-christened "USS Los Angeles" after being turned over to the US Navy.

postcard from the original 1925 flight from Germany to the US, confirmation stamp in violet
postcard from the original 1925 flight from Germany to the US, confirmation stamp in violet
letter from US Navy flight to Bermuda
letter from return trip from Bermuda to the USA
Commemorative cover sent from Libau Latvia addressee at Friedrichshafen to New York on the delivery flight of ZR-3 before being renamed to Los Angeles as part of the WWI repatriations. 15th Sep 1924
reverse showing New York N.Y. and Brooklyn N.Y. receivers

"USS Los Angeles"

Whilst the renamed ship was in service it rarely carried mail.

LZ 126 aka USS Los Angeles, Navy airship on a rare mail run for the First flight New York Air Mail Service to San Juan, Puerto Rico
Reverse with San Juan P.R. receiver

1928 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

First flight card of LZ-127 posted on the day before (10 Oct 1928) its maiden flight was 11 Oct 1928 with Zeppelin 2 Reichsmark Zeppelin stamp.
Leipzig Trade Fair commercial card 1928
USA - $1.05 on letter from New York to München (Munich), Germany sent on 25 October 1928. Letter was carried to Germany on the famous airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin." Special handstamp in violet for the flight.
Back side shows a machine receiver from Friedrichshafen/Bodensee as well as a second strike of the flight confirmation handstamp.

1929 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

In 1929 Graf Zeppelin, William Randolph Hearst an American Newspaper publisher partly funded the "Round the World" flight (Weltrundfahrt 1929). The route was New York, Friedrichshafen, Tokyo and Los Angeles before returning to Lakehurst, New York. Hearst insisted that the trip begin and end in Lakehurst. Germans considered the flight to begin and end in Friedrichshafen.

1929 Graf Zeppelin cover sent from Lakehurst New Jersey on the "Round the World" flight. Then on to Fredrikstad, Norway. Posted with $1 Lincoln Memorial and a total of 80c airmail stamps. For $1.80 total.
Lakehurst cover sent on the "Round the World" flight bearing 3x $1 Lincoln Monument stamps and a 50c Lincoln Monument stamp and a 5c airmail for $3.55 total.
August 1929, Lakehurst cover sent on the "Round the World" flight then on to Copenhagen, Denmark. Bearing a total of 11 stamps for $1.15
Tokyo to Germany leg
Danzig cover, Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst.
The "Orient flight" was the first to use a special hand stamp unique to the flight. Mail cancelled in Friedrichshafen before the flight initially used a steel cancel that didn't hold ink well and left a light or incomplete impression. That was quickly replaced with a rubber stamp, making the steel impressions more valuable.
Orient flight, rubber stamp. Most of the bagged mail was dropped at Er Ramle, Palestine and sent unopened back to Friedrichshafen for delivery. A small number of cards and covers as well as on board mail was taken out and received the er Ramle receiver.
North America flight cancelled when 3 engines failed over Spain. Mail was unbagged in Germany and a red stamp added indicating the delay in delivery. Mail carried on the next trans-Atlantic flight.
En route to Lakehurst on the North America flight the Graf Zeppelin suffered engine failure over Spain and had to turn back. Three engines were non-functional and the ship made an emergency landing in France. This is a rare cover sent from Cuers, France to Germany on the return flight.

1930 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

Spain - 8 pesetas on letter from Sevilla (Seville) to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil sent on 14 May 1930. The letter was carried on the airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" and bears a special handstamp in red on the front.
(above) The back of the envelope shows Rio de Janeiro air receiver and dispatch marks.
1930 Pan America flight, Graf Zeppelin. Switzerland to Holland cover.
short leg flight between Rio and Recife, Brazil.
USA - 60 cents on postcard from New York to Berlin, Germany sent on 30 August 1929. Postcard was carried to Europe on board the famous airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin."
Machine receiver from Friedrichshafen/Bodensee on the Postcard front.
Germany (Weimar Republic) - 4 Reichsmark on letter from Friedrichshafen/Bodensee to Pernambuco, Brazil sent on 18 May 1930. Letter was carried on the famous airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" as a part of the first South America flight and the letter bears both a special handstamp in red for this as well as a stamp issued specifically for the flight.
Brazil receiver on the back.
Varick Station New York cover Germany to connect with the Zeppelin, then redirected to Brazil, South America
First Pan American - Europe flight sent from Varick Station New York via Seville then Friedrichshafen before being delivered to Liverpool.
First Pan American - Europe flight sent 21.4.30 from Portland, Oregon by return. Cancelled on the route at Friedrichshafen Germany on 6.6.30. 65c Graf Zeppelin stamp uprating a 3c UPU card.
First Europe Pan-America Round Flight. Argentina 3 - Aeropostal - B.A. card cancelled on 21 May 1930. Cancelled on arrival in Friedrichshafen Germany on 6.6.30. Argentina 1 peso and 50 cents stamps uprating a 5c postal card.
14 Oct 1930 cover sent for the Geneve Aviation flight of the Zeppelin promotion from Friedrichshafen Bodensee cancel to London

1931 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

Uruguay - 83 centavos on postcard from Montevideo to Lorch/Wurttemberg sent on 31 August 1931. Card was carried on the airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" and the card shows a couple confirmation handstamps in violet. Friedrichshafen/Bodensee machine receiver showing along bottom.
Hungary - 1,12 Pengo on postcard sent from Budapest to another address in Budapest after a ride on the famous airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin." Special handstamp at left for the flight.
Germany (Weimar Republic) - 1 Reichsmark (and 8 Pfennig) on postcard sent from Berlin to Leipzig via Leningrad on the LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" airship. Departure was 25 July 1931. In red is the special handstamp for the flight which included a rendezvous near the North Pole with a Soviet Icebreaker called the "Malygin." This postcard was only sent as far as Leningrad and then returned to Germany and shows a Leningrad transit. The rate for this card was 1 Reichsmark and the 8 Pfennig from the stationery card was incidental here.
reverse of 8c Stationery item
GERMANY, 1931, Polar flight, 4mk Polar flight stamp tied Friedrichshafen to icebreaker “Malygin”
1931 Polar flight, on board cancel, dropped at Leningrad and taken by plane to Berlin.
1931 Graf Zeppelin Egypt flight. On board card on the return flight. The post office (on board) ran out of stamps so the card has a hand written notation that 1 RM had been paid. Card sent by Willy Speck the Zeppelin radioman.
31 August 1931 --- Germany (Weimar Republic) - 4 Reichsmark on letter with on-board cancel from the airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" with destination of Kiel-Holtenau. It bears the handstamp of the 1st 1931 South America flight. The letter shows a postmark from Sao Vicente in the Cape Verde islands of the same date and another departure mark from 5 September front and back.
reverse of Germany-Cape Verde Kiel-Holtenau cover

1932 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

Argentina - 83 centavos on letter from Buenos Aires to Lorch/Wurttemberg, Germany sent on 12 August 1932. Letter was carried on the airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin." Confirmation handstamp in violet.
Friedrichshafen/Bodensee receiver on the back.
Dundee recorded Zeppelin mail to Brazil 1932 3s9d rate. Cancelled at Dundee Per Graf Zeppelin instructions carried it to Berlin cancelled with the Berlin C2 air cancel, then taken to Frederichshafen to meet the Zeppelin on its departure to Brazil.
1932 Graf Zeppelin cover sent from London Foreign service Air Mail 4/- rate, to Montevideo, Uraguay. Via Berlin and meeting the airship at Friedrichshafen before departure.
This LZ-127 flown cover left Buenos Aires, Argentina on Oct. 11, 1932 arriving on Oct. 19 at Friedrichshafen, Germany and then on to Berlin the following day, Oct 20. Graf Zeppelin LZ-127 made 64 round trips in total to Brazil.
Reverse of LZ-127 flown cover left Buenos Aires, Argentina on Oct. 11, 1932.
1932 Postcard posted and registered at Rotterdam-Mathenesserplein office for onward Graf Zeppelin transit at Friedrichshafen then on to Munster Germany
Reverse 1932 Rotterdam card
Switzerland to Argentina Treaty mail. Ramshorn via Friedrichshafen to Buenos Aires.
Z-194a, 1932, Danzig to Ronne, Denmark via Drop mail, franked with C31, C32, C33, C34, and C35, on an envelope with a PrePrinted Mint LZ127 Luftshiff Etiquette, addressed to the Zeppelin factory.
7th South America flight on board, destination Pernambuco, Brazil.

1933 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

USA - 50 cents on airmail letter from Chicago IL to Detroit MI via Friedrichshafen/Bodensee, Germany sent on 26 October 1933. The letter was flown on the airship, LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin" on the return flight from the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.
Confirmation stamp from the flight in black. Back has a Friedrichshafen receiver and a New York transit after the return from Germany.
Flight leg originating in Friedrichshafen with German flight stamp. Cover has the blue 2 RM stamp with the Chicago flight over print.
Chicago flight with 4RM stamp with overprint making the round trip, Germany to Germany.
London Foreign Service L and London FS38 cancelled stamps 3/- rate, Zeppelin cover to Buenos Aires Argentina. Sent to Berlin then Frederichstafen 1933
London 7/-Foreign Service cancelled Zeppelin cover to Sao Paulo, Brazil. 1933 Berlin 2 receiver cancel and special cancel of Deutsche Luftpost from Berlin to Friedrichstafen Airfield.
1933 Chicago World’s Fair “Century of Progress.”
One of the highlights of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the German airship Graf Zeppelin on October 26, 1933, it circled Lake Michigan near the exposition for two hours, then landed at the nearby Curtiss-Wright Airport in Glenview for twenty-five minutes. Paraguay Graf Zeppelin flight cover Ex-Sieger; Registered at Asuncion, Paraguay 14 Oct 1933; arrival at Chicago 26 Oct 1933 and at New York City 27 Oct 1933 (arriving cancellations on back). Black pictorial Graf Zeppelin 14-31 Oct 1933 flight (Europe to South America to North America to Europe) Confirmation mark and violet pictorial Extraordinario (Brazil - North America - Europe) Confirmation mark. Graf Zeppelin flight: Europe to South America to North America to Europe.
British Morocco, 4th South America flight.

1934 "Graf Zeppelin-Condor" LZ-127

Paraguay cover aboard the Graf Zeppelin for the return flight of the 7th South America trip.
Called the Christmas flight, evergreen trees were brought over to Brazil for home sick Germans. The flight also hit the 1 million km mark for total km flown by the Graf Zeppelin.
5th South America flight, on board cancel.
Sixth South America Flight, on board cancel.
German flight to Konigsburg.

1935 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

The Germany to Brazil mail was carried by the Graf Zeppelin and by Lufthansa which flew mail by plane to Gambia then across the Atlantic by catapult ship. At that time planes could not make the trans-Atlantic flight so an air-sea connection was made. Seaplane connected with a tender ship part way to Brazil where the plane was winched aboard, and refueled. The ship steamed closer to Brazil and the plane was catapulted to finish the journey to Brazil. When the catapult ship was taken out of service for repairs the Graf Zeppelin made several trips to Gambia to pickup DLH mail bringing it back to Brazil and so keeping the mail schedule intact. The Pendelfahrt, or pendulum flights are recognized by the transit dates or by philatelic covers sent by Paraguay.

2nd South America flight, cancelled on board. Cover sent by Max Pruss, Commander of the Graf Zeppelin.
Pendelfahrt card sent on board by Commander Max Pruss. Recognized by the Stutgart date.

Deutsche Lufthansa (DLH) "Condor" connected Flights

1935-11-12 Flight G499 from Asuncion Paraguay to Frankfort am Main. 'Condor' One of the Pendelfahrt flights that traveled to West Africa, stopping at Bathurst Gambia on the way back to Europe.
'Condor' This was flight G500. Cover traveled from Buenos Aires to Nurnberg, also stopping in Bathurst.
Whilst zeppelins never reached Paraguay, they remain one of the highest source of covers. Mail was shipped by plane from Asuncion to connect with the zeppelins in Brazil to be carried on board. 1935 Condor cover Asuncion to Berlin. Many collectors chose Paraguay dealers to provide the service to them. In some cases the mail did not arrive in Brazil in time and the letters travelled by and and sea.
Asuncion Registered label and Berlin receiver.

1936 "Graf Zeppelin" LZ-127

Zeppelin Flown Covers of the World 1936a.jpg
Zeppelin Flown Covers of the World 1936b.jpg
Zeppelin Flown Covers of the World 1936c.jpg
1936 North America flight from Frankfurt onto Guatemala.

1936 "Hindenburg" LZ-129

Sent Apr 5, 1936 from Brazil and arriving on Apr 10 at Friedrichshafen, Germany on board the LZ-129 Hindenberg.
Reverse of Brazil cover with Friedrichshafen cancel.
Sent May 9, 1936 from Winnipeg via Hamburg on board the LZ-129 Hindenberg. Before being shipped to Southampton England.
Reverse of Winnipeg cover to Southampton with receiving cancel of 14th May 1936 of the D-LZ-129 Frankfurt (Main) stamp.
Registered cover sent May 6, 1936 Stuttgart,Germany via Lakehurst New Jersey to Mount Hope West Virginia USA
Registered cover sent May 6, 1936 Stuttgart,Germany via Lakehurst New Jersey to Mount Hope West Virginia USA
6 May 1936 Hindenburg First Flight Cover front
6 May 1936 Hindenburg First Flight Cover reverse
Complete set of Olympic stamps sent from the Olympic village.

Circumnavigation flight cover

1937 This cover circumnavigated the globe in 1936 and was carried part of the way on the Hindenburg from NY to Germany.
Reverse of circumnavigated cover showing Rhein-Main and Hong Kong marks
Enclosed letter of the circumnavigation cover - General Motors Pontiac advert 1937
Circumnavigation routing and carriers on reverse of enclosed letter.

1937 "Hindenburg" LZ-129

Final flight of the Hindenburg. Mail was delivered in Cologne after a previous flight was cancelled.
Zeppelin Flown Covers of the World 1937b.jpg
The flight that didn't happen. One of the outgoing pieces of mail that was returned to sender with notation that the Hindenburg had had an accident.

1938 "Graf Zeppelin II" LZ-130

Germany (Third Reich) - 1 Mark on letter from Frankfurt am Main to Heubach via Reichenberg (Sudetenland) sent on 1 December 1938. The letter was carried on the airship, LZ-130 "Graf Zeppelin II." Confirmation stamp for the "Sudetenland Flight" in red. Back has a partial machine cancel from Reichenberg in Sudetenland.(today Liberec in the Czech Republic).
Germany (Third Reich) - 50 Pfennig on postcard from Frankfurt/Main to Tharandt via Reichenberg (Sudetenland) sent on 1 December 1938. Postcard was carried on the airship, LZ-130 "Graf Zeppelin II", the final in a series of famous airships for which all flights ended at the start of the Second World War. Special confirmation stamp for the "Sudetenland flight" in red.
Reichenberg machine cancel transit on the back of Third Reich postcard.

1939 "Graf Zeppelin II" LZ-130