Saved Hindenburg Mails and Stamps - Philatelic Gems for Stamp Collectors


Dec 11, 2014 Europe/London

On May 6, 1937, the German Hindenburg burst into flames while attempting to navigate the runway at Lakehurst, New Jersey. In a matter of seconds, the once-mighty German zeppelin that completed sixty-three flights, including round trip to the United States (1936) met its fiery end. Even though the airship became fiery wreckage, the lives of nearly 2/3 of the crew members were saved.

According to final assessment conducted by the authorities, thirty-five people died on-board the 803’10” long airship. Also, it was not clarified what really caused the disaster- some theories centered on generated electricity from storm that ignited the airship’s hydrogen to sabotage. Whatever the reason, the explosion took the lives of many and increased the interest of stamp enthusiasts. The reason can be found in the salvaged mails and stamps found in the airship’s wreckage. Even though the zeppelin burned to the ground, the authorities found a substantial number of postcards, mails and stamps indicating how rich philately was during the time.

Some of the charred cards were still collected and sent to their intended recipients. To protect the contents, the US Post Office decided to enclose the item in a glassine envelope and sealed this in an envelope. Designed as an economical folded business card, this arrangement allows for the sender to indicate the name of the recipient without having to turn over the card. The address part will be folded and glued in place. One card is addressed to John Schoonbrod from Ernst, asking why John has been out of communication and suggested that he reply by sending his mail through the Hindenburg on its return flight. The stamp on the card suggest that the sender overpaid by 10Rpf.

Various stamps, postcards and mails saved from the burned Hindenburg

The ‘John Schoonbrod’ postcard was just one of the many cards, mails and stamps that were salvaged by authorities. In fact, there are 358 pieces of mails salvaged from the original number of more than 17,000 mails. Of this number, there were 176 salvaged items that were completely spared from damage since these were sealed in protective pouches. Stamp collectors and enthusiasts should be glad to know that there are other types of crash mail from Hindenburg including mail posted on-board, mail sent from other countries like Switzerland and Austria and mail dropped in the city of Cologne (Germany). These mails and stamps are now the subject of interest coming from stamp collectors and enthusiasts, but just like other collections, there are problems too. For example, forgeries exist, supposedly coming from dealers wanting to cash in on the Hindenburg case. The key here is to know what kinds of mails and stamps were carried, and to know some collections including the collection of John P. V. Heinmuller.