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Aerostats in 1912: A Look in <i>Scientific American</i>'s Archives [Slide Show]

In 1912 airships and balloons, powered and unpowered, were being developed to explore, to entertain, to travel, and to wage war. Aerostats (any lighter-than-air craft) remained highly sensitive to weather and many were floated by flammable hydrogen (at least until the destruction of the Hindenburg in May 1937) but despite the limitations, great hopes were placed on these frail craft.

» View the Aerostats Slide Show

  • CROSSING THE ATLANTIC:
    CROSSING THE ATLANTIC:

    Airship Suchard was redesigned and rebuilt three times by Joseph Brucker in Germany. It was supposed to go from East to West with the trade winds but the attempt was never made.

  • TOURISM BY AIRSHIP:
    TOURISM BY AIRSHIP:

    This advertisement starring the Zeppelin airship Schwaben tried to sell (but never delivered) a 110-day cruise for $650 ($15,000 in today’s money). The first Zeppelin arrived in the U.S. in October 1924—for delivery to the U.S. Navy.

  • TRAVEL BY ZEPPELIN:
    TRAVEL BY ZEPPELIN:

    An airship is pulled from the hanger in Frankfurt by a ground crew. The very civilized trip to Duesseldorf included a cold repast served by the steward. Thousands of people took such trips before World War I.

  • SAFER DIRIGIBLE:
    SAFER DIRIGIBLE:

    Designed by Melvin Vaniman but never built. A bag of Goodyear rubber was to be held at a constant volume within in an immensely strong envelope of cotton reinforced with steel piano wire.

  • ILL-FATED <i>AKRON</i>:
    ILL-FATED <i>AKRON</i>:

    Emerging from its hangar is “America’s only airship.” Designed by Melvin Vaniman, lift was provided by hydrogen, propulsion by gasoline engine. On July 12 the airship was destroyed in flight when the hydrogen exploded.

  • <em>AKRON</em> IN FLIGHT AND WRECKED:
    <em>AKRON</em> IN FLIGHT AND WRECKED:

    The airship maneuvering close to the water during a test flight. Later, the hydrogen-filled vessel exploded just off the New Jersey shore, in front of thousands of horrified spectators. The inventor and his four crewmen were killed.

  • FUN WITH BALLOONS:
    FUN WITH BALLOONS:

    Two aeronauts (with much sartorial aplomb—at least one of them sports a bow tie) artfully meld the science of self-photography with the latest in balloon development, at an altitude of 2,000 feet over Bordeaux, France.

  • BALLOON AS WEAPON:
    BALLOON AS WEAPON:

    The “photogrammetric gun” used a camera to create a map “with sufficient accuracy for military purposes.” In World War I, balloons were widely used for observation and artillery spotting.

  • FRENCH DIRIGIBLE:
    FRENCH DIRIGIBLE:

    The Lieutenant Selle de Beauchamp was supposed to be the French military response to the increasing capabilities of the German Zeppelins.

  • <em>BEAUCHAMP</em> GONDOLA:
    <em>BEAUCHAMP</em> GONDOLA:

    The huge propellers of the French military airship Lieutenant Selle de Beauchamp were driven by two motors of only 80 horsepower each.

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