Arago: Disaster Mail

Disaster Mail

Hindenburg disaster card


The German zeppelin Hindenburg made sixty-three flights, including ten roundtrips to the United States in 1936. It met tragedy May 6, 1937. Attempting to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the giant airship burst into flames near the mooring mast. In only thirty-two seconds, the zeppelin was smoldering wreckage. Amazingly, nearly two-thirds of the passengers and crew survived.

This postcard was part of the mail salvaged from the wreckage. The U.S. Post Office Department enclosed the fragile, charred remains in a glassine envelope and officially sealed it before delivery to the addressee. Postal officials salvaged less than two hundred burned pieces of mail out of more than 17,000 pieces that had been on board.

This folded postcard, also known as an economical folded business card, allowed the sender to type the address and message without turning the card over. After typing, the address portion was folded to become part of the card face and glued into place. This card, addressed to John Schoonbrod in New York City, has a typed message on the reverse in which Ernst wrote that he was sending greetings by air, asked why he had not heard from Hans for awhile, and suggested a reply on an upcoming return flight of the Hindenburg. The international postcard rate was 15Rpf and, therefore, the rate is overpaid by 10Rpf. Though 10 Rpf was the required rate for airmail service in the U.S., no airmail was needed for a New York City destination.

This philatelic gem is from the John P. V. Heinmuller collection, a collection including over 2,000 zeppelin covers that Heinmuller donated to the National Postal Museum.

Address: Mr. John Schoonbrod / 320. W. 107 th. St. / New York / USA
paper; ink; adhesive
Height x Width: 3 15/16 x 5 1/2 in. (10 x 14 cm) [cover] Height x Width: 4 1/4 x 5 13/16 in. (10.8 x 14.8 cm) [cover enclosure]
Museum ID:
Place of Origin:
Germany (German republic)
Place of Destination:
New Jersey

  • Hindenburg Cover
  • Hindenburg disaster card
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