|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.