Arago: Graf Zeppelin Issues

Graf Zeppelin Issues

Stamp collectors financed many special flights of the German airship LZ127 Graf Zeppelin, including a flight around the world and a flight to the Arctic. The United States Post Office Department issued four zeppelin stamps to subsidize flights of the Graf Zeppelin, three in 1930 and one in 1933. Zeppelin airships were instrumental in establishing air postal routes over long distances while demonstrating the public’s enthusiasm and need for flown mail. They provided the fastest link over oceans and continents for passengers, mail, and freight from 1924 to 1937.

In 1930, when the German airship firm Luftschiffbau Zeppelin G.m.b.H (Zeppelin Company) planned a special flight to South America and to the United States, it sought special postage stamps to support its operating expenses. In addition to stamps issued by Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, the United States issued three zeppelin stamps in denominations of 65¢, $1.30, and $2.60. The triangular flight, known as the Pan American flight, included stops in Spain and Brazil before a layover at the naval station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the return to Friedrichshafen, Germany.

In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially rejected the post office design for a zeppelin stamp to subsidize the Graf Zeppelin Chicago flight. He had been unaware that National Socialist Germany had also announced a special stamp issue subsequent to the United States Post Office Department’s announcement of a zeppelin stamp. To avoid a political crisis, the President reversed his position and approved the zeppelin stamp for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, 'A Century of Progress'.