Toy Zeppelins


Toy Zeppelins were a part of the new century of aviation and although conceived earlier was held back due to problems with steering the huge airships. Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin was the first to design and put into practical use. spending a year observing the American Civil war he had his first experience with lighter than air crafts as large balloons were being used as observation platforms at that time.

After his retirement and at the age of 52 he began to design and build his own lighter than air crafts. He had moved from the conventional lighter than air design by utilizing a rigid air frame covered with a soft material. The first craft was the LZ-1 or Luftschiff Zeppelin One. The machine was 416 feet long and had a frame of aluminum and powered by two 16 horsepower Daimler engines. In July 1900 the ZL-1 flew for 18 minutes but had to land due to some technical problems.

He went on to develop the craft into a commercial success of sorts founding the German airship transport company. the company carried over 34,000 passengers between 1911 and 1914. Although he had designed the aircraft for military use it had already found its way into the imagination of the general public.

There were many well known zeppelins of the era both German and American including the Hindenberg, The Los Angeles, The Shenandoah, the Graf Zeppelin, the Akron and the Macon, US navy zeppelins. Since the real ships generated so much excitement the toy companies in Germany and the US soon were turnig out many different types of zeppelins including tin and cast iron models and even one that actually flew by chemical reaction made by The Maerklin Company.

In Germany The Lehman Company made their E.P.L with the name Lehman printed in large letters on the bottom of the toy along with clockworks to turn the metal airscrews. They also produced a inexpensive clockwork sheet metal dirigible carrying the name "Los Angeles".

In the US The Keystone Novelty Company made a derigible more than two feet long, large enough for a small child to ride and modeled after the Graf Zeppelin. Other companies made even more realistic zeppelins such as the Marx Company which produced a zeppelin over 28 inches long designed to be pulled by a child. All metal lithographed silver and red with the propellers operating by a connection to the three wheels on the toy turning the propellers as the toy was pulled.

Even more complex zeppelin toys were the steel building sets from the A. C. Gilbert Company, a 500 piece set with instructions explaining how to build the Los Angeles, the Graf Zeppelins and others. The N. Shure Company also produced a similar toy set in 1929. Cheaper small cast iron models were also made and were to be pulled around by a string.

Zeppelins were not only produced for the children of the era but also for the adults in the forms of glass pieces, ashtrays, and other novelty items to be displayed around the house including candy containers. Today the older tin and cast iron toys are in demand and usually if in good condition will bring good money on the online auctions.
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