Aerostats in 1912: A Look in Scientific American's Archives [Slide Show]
Images of lighter-than-air technology from a century ago, two years before World War I broke out in Europe
Scientific American, Dec 28, 1912
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. Scientific American, March 16, 1912
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. Scientific American, June 29, 1912
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.
Scientific American, June 29, 1912
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.
Scientific American, February 17, 1912 Advertisement
AKRON: 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. Scientific American, July 13, 1912 AKRON 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. Scientific American, July 13, 1912
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.
Scientific American, March 2, 1912
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.
Scientific American, February 10, 1912 Advertisement
FRENCH DIRIGIBLE: The
Lieutenant Selle de Beauchamp was supposed to be the French military response to the increasing capabilities of the German Zeppelins. Scientific American, January 27, 1912 BEAUCHAMP GONDOLA: The huge propellers of the French military airship Lieutenant Selle de Beauchamp were driven by two motors of only 80 horsepower each. Scientific American, January 27, 1912
MILITARY AIRSHIPS: "A struggle has begun on the European continent for the military control of the air." The sizes show the relative airship strength of countries that would become combatants when World War I broke out in Europe in 1914.
Scientific American, Dec 28, 1912 Advertisement
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.
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