A military observer from Germany came to the United States during the Civil War. While in St. Paul, Minnesota, he observed his first balloon. He took a ride in this tethered balloon to a height of 700 feet. This was the first time he had seen the earth from the air. The German gentleman was Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who later changed the world with a new form of air travel with his quiet, lighter-then-air ships known as zeppelins. After returning to his country, he drew up plans for his revolutionary airship and then proposed that they be used for military use – but he was ignored. In 1890 he retired from the military and within 10 years he built his first zeppelin, which was used by the military in World War I for bombing raids. But, the majority of these airships were used as travel for first-class customers, as the ships could cross the Atlantic Ocean in just over two days in a very quiet and tranquil mode. Life on-board was like staying at a five-star hotel: each passenger was wined and dined, provided a cabin with hot and cold running water, and a bell pull for service. But, there were three rules that were strictly enforced: 1) Do not throw objects overboard; 2) No matches or lighters on-board – smoking was only allowed in the Smoking Salon where special lighters were used; and 3) Passengers must stay in the Passenger Area. While all this luxury was going on, the crew of the airship was constantly watching over the ship’s welfare and safety. The airship had one major flaw – it was filled with hydrogen gas that was very flammable. Helium was the second lightest gas and not flammable, but it was rare and most of it was found in the United States. But, the Germans did not worry, as they had not had any mishaps or injuries to their passengers in over 30 years – until May 6, 1937. On that date, when the Hindenburg suddenly burst into flames above New Jersey, came the abrupt end to airship travel.
SharLeigh has an inquisitive nature – she is interested in current events, history, science and many more subjects, including things that go bump in the night! Since 1997, SharLeigh has scoured the internet, looking for interesting, fun and timely topics covering all sorts of human-interest subjects for her articles from her home in Fontana, CA.