Box 189

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact John Renjilian, 203-426-0864


Long before the frequent flier era of the trans Atlantic jet, passengers had the chance of crossing the Atlantic by air through flying on the great rigid gas balloons known as Zeppelins. the Newtown Historical Society, in conjunction with the C H Booth Library, will offer a look at those early fliers in Transatlantic Airships, May 6, at 7.30 in the meeting room of the Library, in a program presented by Jason Scapputicci.

The German Count von Zeppelin began working on his ideas for a large rigid airship filled with a buoyant gas that would make it lighter than air in the later 19th century. By 1910, his airships offered commercial flights within Germany, and by the outbreak of WWI in 1914, his firm, with the acronym DELAG, had carried over 10,000 passengers on 1,500 flights. The war halted commercial development, but the airships were used to bomb Britain in numerous raids, bringing the war to the British homefront. Following the war, DELAG establish the first regularly scheduled flights within Germany, but the airships were eventually surrendered to the allies following the Treaty of Versailles, and Germany was forbidden to create new large scale airships. The rigidity of the design, along with the consequent use of multiple small gas bags for lift, allowed for much larger ships than the non rigid “blimp” single gas bag model allowed.

Restrictions on airship construction were relaxed in 1926, and the industry revived. With the building of the Graf Zeppelin, and the later Hindenburg, regular transatlantic flights were established between Germany, Brazil and North America. The Graf Zeppelin made its first voyage across the Atlantic in 1928, taking 112 hours. Germany was prohibited from buying helium from the United States, by far the world’s largest producer, as the gas was classified as a war material. Thus, the Germans continued to use the much more flammable hydrogen. The Hindenburg was the largest airship built to that time, and made its maiden voyage in 1936. It had been designed to use helium, but due to the restrictions and the increasing tensions with Nazi Germany, it was forced to convert to hydrogen, with disastrous consequences. On May 6, 1937, 82 years before the date of this program, the ship caught fire while landing at the Lakehurst, being destroyed within seconds, with the loss of 36 lives, effectively ending the era of airship transportation.

Jason Scapputicci has presented several programs to local groups, including a program on the 1964 World’s fair for the Newtown Historical Society.

All Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. A short business meeting will be held before the program, and refreshments will be served following. For further information please visit the website at, find the Society at, or call the Society at 203-426-5937.