"Oh, the humanity!"Hindenburg Disaster Relics and Archive. This impressive lot consists of two large museum-quality professionally framed groupings of items related to the German passenger airship, the LZ-129 Hindenburg, which burst into flames and was totally destroyed while attempting to land at the Lakehurst Naval Station on May 6, 1937. Included in this historically significant lot is the singed log sheet from the #2 Port Engine Gondola (never before made public), with log entries just before the explosion revealing some critical information.
Thirteen passengers, twenty-two crewmembers and one member of the ground crew perished in the disaster. There had been other catastrophic explosions of dirigibles, such as the U.S.S. Akron, which crashed on April 4, 1933, with the loss of seventy-three lives (only three people survived). However, after the Hindenburg crash, no one would be caught dead on a passenger dirigible again. It marked the end of the passenger airship era, replaced by the rapidly developing airline industry.
The Hindenburg disaster stands out because most of it was caught on film. A radio reporter, Herbert Morrison, broadcast his dramatic eyewitness account on WLZ in Chicago the following day and, perhaps most importantly, the cause of the explosion has never been definitively determined. Initially, it was thought the hydrogen gas caught fire, perhaps after the ship was hit by lightning in a rapidly moving thunderstorm. Some assumed an act of sabotage was to blame. Most recently, the highly flammable nature of the "doped" skin covering (a piece of which is included in this lot) received intense scrutiny. More than likely, a brace wire snapped, punctured a fuel cell, which, in turn, was ignited by a spark, caused by the difference in conductivity between the skin and the electrically charged atmosphere. Hydrogen was being vented at the time of mooring which, when mixed with oxygen, became highly flammable.
The consignor's grandfather, Colonel William G. Schauffler, Jr., Army Air Corps Reserve, lived in Lakehurst, N.J. at the time and was friends with Commander Charles E. Rosendahl, head of the Naval Airship Station. Colonel Schauffler helped provide medical attention to August Deutschle, engine mechanic of the #2 Port Engine Gondola. The two became friends and, upon Deutschle's recovery, Colonel Schauffler was given the gift of the singed page from the engineer's logbook, with entries right up until the time of the explosion and crash.
This lot consists of two major components:
The first is a 64" x 26" burl walnut frame containing ten official U.S. Department of the Navy sepia glossy photographs that depict the Hindenburg. Four of the photographs show the Hindenburg in flames, three of the officials involved in the post-crash investigation (Hugo Eckener, head of Zeppelin airship operations, and Commander Rosendahl, among them), and two of the wreath-laying ceremonies.
The second frame measures 52.5" x 42". It has four period photos, two news clippings (one showing Colonel Schauffler and August Deutschle at the hospital), a small advertisement for the return trip of the Hindenburg from Lakehurst to Frankfurt, a 2" x 4" section of the "doped" skin with transmittal envelope, four passes from 1936 to the Lakehurst Naval Station (Ships Pass, Special Pass and Passenger Pass), a Western Union telegram from Commander Rosendahl to Colonel Schauffler acknowledging receipt of the wedding ring and telegram that belonged to Captain Lehmann, who perished in the crash of the Hindenburg, and a caption card detailing the Schauffler Family's involvement with the Hindenburg.
Most historically important among these items is the 7.5" x 23" page from Deutschle's logbook (two tape repairs, light coloration, possibly singing from the fire). The pencil entries are in German, but reveal some critical information. One entry ("Time one hour back") might reflect the time change, or the fact that the ship was running behind schedule. Another from May 4th ("Propeller Schlecht") translates to "The propeller is bad." Further on, "The compressed air tubing from the bottle to the starter button is broken. New tubing put in operation. Forward fastening... of the air bottle is loose." This last entry was written just before the crash on May 6th.
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