"Graf Zeppelin" Pan American Flight cover
In 1930 the Post Office Department issued three postage stamps depicting the German airship LZ127 Graf Zeppelin. The denominations of sixty-five cents, $1.30, and $2.60 paid the rates for postcards and envelopes send on various legs of the Graf Zeppelin's Pan American flight from Germany to South America to North America and back to Germany. The Zeppelin Company received a percentage of the postage to help defray its operating expenses.
The Washington, DC, post office postmarked this envelope on April 19, 1930, the first day of issue of the three stamps. The letter rate for the round trip from and to Friedrichshafen, Germany, was $3.90. The sender of this example overpaid the rate by sixty-five cents in order to create a souvenir with all three stamps. The envelope traveled by regular means to Germany and then by Graf Zeppelin on the entire flight. The cachets — a red German postal cachet, the US post office cachet illustrating the flight route, and the smaller, circular cachet stating that this mail made the complete trip — provide evidence of service.
James Farley, postmaster general of the United States at the time, donated this cover to the Smithsonian Institution from his personal collection. It is addressed to Herbert S. Chamberlin, a philatelic agent in the Division of Stamps for the third assistant postmaster general.