STOCKHOLMIA 2019 Private Treaty Sale

Lot 76

Germany, 1937, LZ-129 Hindenburg, May Day (non-)Flight Collection. Five binders presenting over 370 covers, plus additional related materials, from the aborted May 1 National Flight of the Hindenburg. Unable to repeat her Germany Flight of the previous year due to weather, the mail intended for the May 1 flight was added to that on her May 3 flight to North America, and parachuted over Cologne for delivery. This lot contains a great range of frankings (including Hitler and other souvenir sheets complete), flight cachets in various colors (including black and the very scarce blue in addition to normal shades of red), photos, a passenger list, etc., etc.—along with a copy of Charles Jacob's Ausfalls: LZ 129 Hindenburg May Day Flight 1937.

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Zeppelins. They were sleek, silent and sensational. During WWI, they were deadly, being used for bombing raids over England and the Continent. But during the inter-war years, Germany looked to "rebrand" her airships as passenger liners and symbols of German modernity and know-how. The most famous of her inter-war ships, the Graf Zeppelin, made numerous well-known intercontinental and trans-oceanic flights—North and South America, the Middle East, the Arctic, 1929's Around-the-World Flight, and to the 1933 Chicago World's Fair (all of which spawned sought-after philatelic mementos)—as well as less well-known flights within and around Germany, including a 1936 propaganda flight to the Rhineland demilitarized zone.

On that latter flight, Graf Zeppelin was accompanied by the newly launched Hindenburg. Whereas there had been an air of the "goodwill flight" with its international journeys (in addition to being tests of the machines, passenger trips plus money-makers for the company), the March 1936 Deutschlandfahrt was organized by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The re-militarization of the Rhineland in direct contradiction of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact was backed by an after-the-fact plebiscite, with the two airships meant to inspire German pride (and, thanks to leaflets dropped and speeches broadcast, sway votes) during their flights in the week leading to the referendum.

Hindenburg's 1937 season began in late March with a South America flight. This was bracketed (mid-March and late April) by a series of unsuccessful experimental hook-ons and take-offs from the undercarriage trapeze (pioneered on the USS Akron) by Ernst Udet (pilot of the Kent Greenland Airmail label cover offered elsewhere in the sale).

Hindenburg's next flight was to be a reprise of her 1936 Deutschlandfahrt, this time a one-day return trip running from Frankfurt's newly opened airport north to Berlin and back. Mail-carrying fees were always a major source of income for the Zeppelin company, and this flight was no different: following postal officials' announcement of the flight, over 100 kg of covers were aboard for servicing.

The flight, however, was not to be—all thanks to the weather. The winds had been high the previous year, and Hindenburg's tail fin was damaged as her captain tried to take off despite the conditions. Mindful of the damage (physical and reputational) from 1936, officials unhappily agreed to scrap the 1937 flight. The question then remained: What to do with the mail?

An elegant solution was found in an extra handstamp and Hindenburg's flight schedule. May 3 was her first North America flight of the season, so all mail intended for the National Flight was added to the covers and cards intended for Lakehurst. A special rectangular four-line handstamp reading "Due to cancelled/Germany Flight/mail drop from/North America Flight" was applied, and a parachute drop made over the center of Cologne around 9:30 p.m. The ship then turned west en route toward the Atlantic, New Jersey, and her still not fully explained fiery end.

Price: $10,000; £7,850; €8,500; 100,000 SEK; HK$78,000.

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