The 20th Maynard Sundman Lecture

November 2, 2023

Cheryl Ganz: U.S. Zeppelin Postage Stamps

The above media is provided by  YouTube (Privacy Policy, Terms of Service)

Elliot Gruber: Good afternoon and welcome to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and to the 20th Maynard Sundman lecture.

I am Elliott Gruber;  I am the museum's director. I would like to thank all of those who attending here in person here at the museum, and those of you around the world that are also tuning in. The Postal Museum is one of 20 Smithsonian Museums plus the National Zoo. Our mission is to educate, challenge and inspire our audiences onsite and online, and to lead the Smithsonian becoming the most welcoming and accessible museum, a process that is already underway as we reimagine our atrium level galleries and public spaces. So, if you have any ideas or suggestions what you'd like to see at the atrium level, please send us those ideas.

The Postal Museum has the second largest collection of any Smithsonian Museum. As such, we can tell just about any story in American history and, given the breadth and depth of our international collection, the same is true for world history. And we have the best philatelic exhibition in the world. And you will soon hear from the lead curator of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, Cheryl Ganz.

But first it is my great pleasure and honor to introduce one of the sponsors of the Maynard Sundman Lecture Series, Don Sundman. Don is president of Mystic Stamp Company. He has served as the chairman of the National Postal Museum's Council of Philatelists from 2004 to 2021,  and is one of the museum's greatest supporters. He is also one of this year's recipients of the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award.

Don and his brother David established the Maynard Sundman Lecture Series in 2002 to honor their father, Maynard. Maynard Sundman began collecting stamps in 1927, and at the age of 19 started his first philatelic business selling stamps through the mail. His passion for stamps continued throughout his lifetime.

The lecture series allows the Sundman family and the National Postal Museum to share this passion with a broader audience by featuring talks of authors and expert philatelists. He's also a keen advisor to me personally and a friend.

Thank you, Don, for all that you do to support philately and the Postal Museum. (audience applauds)

Don Sundman: Thank you. And thank you for coming. How am I on the mic? I hope okay. Okay, great.

So, I'm excited and proud that Cheryl's giving the 20th Sundman lecture. Everybody loves Cheryl and I loved working with her when she was the curator here at the museum. She's president of the APS. She is unstoppable, she's an incredible force, so it's just wonderful.

And my father, Maynard Sundman did love stamps his entire life. And he died at 93 years old and he was still reading Linn’s, and so excited about what had happened, what my brother Dave and I did with these two companies. My father started, originally, Maynard Sundman stamps in Connecticut and then he went into the army for World War II. And afterwards he and my mother started Littleton Stamp Company, which became Littleton Coin Company. And that company's just over 75 years old.

And then in 1974 my father bought Mystic Stamp Company and gave me a job. I'd always worked for my dad after school in summers, but I was 19, also, and so I quit school and ran that company. And Mystic is a 100 years old this year, so that's kind of cool another anniversary, the 20th anniversary and Mystic being a 100.

And it's 36 years since I first made a gift to the national collection when it was at American History. It was the CIA invert stamp and I called up Jim Bruns and I said, “would you like this rare stamp? I think it's really cool. And he goes, we don't have any money. And I go, I don't want to sell it to you, I just want to give it to you. And I think he fell over that somebody would do that.

But that was the start of my involvement with the Smithsonian. And on this date in 2005,

Charles Shreve and I did a famous trade that the one-cent Z Grill for the Jenny Plate block.

So it's, I don't know if you remember the date, but I saw we have it written down at our company. So yeah.

Anyways, thank you for coming. I'm so excited to honor my father and I know this will be a fantastic lecture.

Thank you.

(Audience applauds.)

Susan Smith: Thank you so much, Don, to you and your brother for establishing this wonderful lecture series. 20 lectures, this is the 20th by leading philatelists and writers, and so we’re very grateful to have it. It’s been wonderful opportunity.

And good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for coming. For those of you joining us from home, thank you for joining us. I am Dr. Susan Smith, the Winton M. Blount Research Chair here at the National Postal Museum. But before I introduce today's speaker, I wan to  tell you a little bit about how this is working for those of you on Zoom. So this is set up as a webinar, which means that your microphones and your cameras will not be working. We have disabled the raise hand and we've disabled chat. If you have any technical issues or any questions for the speaker, please use the Q&A box down at the bottom. You can also find the option of closed captioning. It should read CC or closed captioning at the bottom of your screen. We have a live captioner with us today, so please take advantage of that. We will have about 15 minutes at the end of Cheryl's presentation for questions and answers, and we will be taking questions from inside the room and from online, so please do type those into the Q&A box. We'll get to as many as we can.

It is now my immense pleasure to welcome you all for a lecture with Dr. Cheryl Ganz, today's speaker and a mentor to many people in the field, and a colleague and former coworker of many folks here at the National Postal Museum.

Cheryl is a social and cultural historian and a lifelong stamp collector, as I'm sure many of you know. She is a Smithsonian Institution curator emerita, following her retirement as the chief curator of Philately here at the National Postal Museum. As you've already heard, she was the lead curator on the galleries upstairs, the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery. She currently serves as the President of the American Philatelic Society, as the USA Midwest representative of the Royal Philatelic Society of London, and as a member of the US Postal Service’s Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee or CSAC. The committee that selects and reviews designs for US postage stamps.

Her exhibits, publications, and talks focus on her specialty about what you'll hear more today, zeppelin posts and memorabilia worldwide, especially from the US airships, the 1933 Graf Zeppelin Chicago flight and Hindenburg. She founded and administers the Facebook group, Zeppelin and Airship Collectors, and edited and co-edited the Zeppelin Collector for 37 years. In addition to zeppelin material, she collects Wisconsin Postal History, Germany, Switzerland, and China.

Her lifelong philatelic outreach at local, national, and international levels engages a vast spectrum of collectors from specialists to new audiences. Some of us got to see that in action in Cleveland this summer. Philatelic recognitions include the Roll of Distinguished

Philatelists, the APS Luff Award for exceptional contributions to philately, the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award, the Collector's Club of New York Alfred Lichtenstein Award for distinguished service, the Carl Lindenberg Medal from the Berlin Philatelic Club, the American Airmail Society's Aero Philatelic Research Award, the RPSL Lee Medal, the US Philatelic Classic Society Distinguished Philatelist Award, the Newberry Award, and the Single Frame Champion of Champions.

Ganz earned her PhD in US History from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her publications include the "1933 Chicago's World's Fair, A Century of Progress." "Delivering Hope, FDR and Stamps of the Great Depression," "Fire and Ice, Hindenburg and Titanic," "Favorite Finds," "Pacific Exchange, China and US Mail," "Every Stamp Tells a Story: The National Philatelic Collection," "Zeppelin Hindenburg: An Illustrated History of LZ-129," and "US Zeppelin and Airship Mail Flights," plus more than 100 articles.

Please join me in welcoming Cheryl Ganz.

(Audience applauds.)

Cheryl Ganz: Hello, it's so exciting to see so many friendly faces in the audience today. Thank you for coming. Thank you, Don and David, for supporting this lecture; Elliot, Susan, Dan, the tech crew. I'm thrilled to be here. It's the 30th anniversary this year of the museum. This is the 20th Sundman Lecture and it's the 10th anniversary of the Gross Gallery. It's like, you know, the triple header and I'm really honored that I'm here for it.

You know what when you say zeppelin stamps and you say United States zeppelin stamps, so I'm not going to keep saying that over and over, how many do you think there are? And a lot of people would immediately go three. And then you take another moment and you say, no, there’s four, but in fact we have five. And so, I'm going to focus on the first four through most of this talk, but the last one is the 65 center that was reproduced on the stamp issued for the opening of this museum.

All these stamps used the same photograph as their source image. And this photograph is of the Graf Zeppelin on the round-the-world flight when it was in Los Angeles.

If you were a collector at that time, 1930 and 1933, and you bought those four stamps mint, you'd have spent $5 and 5 cents. That was the Great Depression. That was a big deal. And so today that would be equivalent to about 100 dollars. So, imagine then, if you were buying plate blocks, now you're looking at close to $600 in the Great Depression. And, so even today, you might spend more than that if you want to buy nice copies, but it puts it in perspective of how they were special from the moment that they were issued because not many people could afford them.

So, why did we have zeppelin stamps? I mean, zeppelins were German ships. I mean we did have some US air ship zeppelins, but the ones that carried mail for the post office were on postage stamps are German. And, so, if you can see at the top left, I have Dr. Hugo Eckener, he was commander of the Graf Zeppelin, and Willy von Meister the US representative

of the Zeppelin Company. They negotiated for the stamps after successful flights in ‘28 and ‘29, where mail was carried from the United States and was the major supporter of all the postage revenue came from the US.

And, so, Eckener went to visit at the post office headquarters. He went to talk about 1930 flight, how we were gonna work this out, so we get some money out of it, you get some money out of it. And he talked to fellow and said, I suppose it's not enough time to do a postage stamp. And it just kind of dropped there. But then that guy goes to the postmaster general to report on the discussions, and the postmaster general goes home that night and talks to his wife, Katherine Brown. And Katherine had been following all the zeppelin stories in the newspapers and she said, you absolutely have to do zeppelin stamps so we can thank a woman, Katherine Brown, wife of the Postmaster General, for our zeppelin stamps.

At the right is an example of the agreement, and while it's, you know, a small type to look at, basically, what it's saying is who gets how much money for each piece of mail carried. And the bulk of the money went to the Zeppelin Company to offset their operating costs. And so, there were two triangle flights and the United States put out stamps for those. The first one, 1930, the next one, 1933. And the only difference, really, in the flight pattern, Germany, Brazil, United States, they also stopped in Spain, was that on the first flight it went to Lakehurst, New Jersey, and on the second flight it went to Miami, Akron and Chicago.

And so here you see a newspaper photograph when they're making the agreement to how we're going to do the 1933 flight and the postage stamps. So, you have our postmaster general then was James Farley with Eckener, and on the far left of the image you have Eugene White, he was in charge of trans-oceanic mails. So, they made their agreement and, in their agreement,

which you can see the contract agreements and information here, 85% of the funds for mail carried went to the Zeppelin Company. 85%. And, of course, the post office still came out ahead because if you bought mint stamps and didn't put them on mail, all that money went to the post office.

So, here it shows you in the center one, you know, how much mail was carried, how much was sold, but the fun part of it is, if you look to the far right, there's a ticket to fly on board the zeppelin on this Chicago flight, and that's Eugene White. So, Eckener had offered James Farley a free flight on the zeppelin, and he turned it down. So, Eugene White said, I'll take it. And so that's his actual ticket, which I'm lucky to have.

So, this little chart, and I'm not going to leave it up long enough that you're going to study too much of it, but the basic idea is you can see from when the stamps issued to when it's taken off sale, how many were printed; how many were sold; how many were redeemed, that means they didn't sell, so they were turned back to be destroyed; and how much was flown. And the bottom line is they destroyed a lot more than they printed or sold.

I mean not, they didn't destroy more than they printed, but they destroyed many more than they sold.

And, with these numbers of the flown mail, we can kind of roughly come up with how much money would've gone to the Zeppelin Company. So, what I'm going to do in this talk, this is really an overview about these stamps and much of what I say will apply to other stamps that were flatbed-press, engraved stamps of the time era. But I wanted to just take you through kind of production and use of these stamps.

So, at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, first you have your design, then engravers work on a die, then it's transferred to a roll, the roll is transferred to the plate, then they have to harden all of this. Now this image of the hardening here is a round plate. So obviously none of these pictures are the zeppelin itself; they’re just to give you an idea of the process. But you would harden the plate, could be through heat, could be through chemical, and then finally it would go to press.

So, we start out with design. So, for the 1930 stamps, I'm showing in the middle, this is only a photocopy I can show you here because at the BEP archive, it's very hard to even get in. And once you're in, you can't even take a camera. They very limited on what they'll let you see and do, but I was able to get a photocopy of this.

In the center you have what we call an “essay.” An essay is a design that was rejected, wasn't used finally. So, you can see here it's the design for the one on the left, but the value of the one on the right. So, it's an essay that's a model. A model is a small, little beautifully painted thing that's still in the BEP archives.

And so now I'll talk about a little of the design on 1933. So, in 1933, Alvin Hall, director of the bureau goes to Chicago for the convention of the American Philatelic Society. And at the banquet he sits next to the APS President Dr. Clarence Hennan. And after they have a little conversation, the story of an upcoming zeppelin stamp is brought up. And so Alvin says, hey, let me show you my idea for the stamp. So, he grabs a napkin, and this is the image of that napkin, and he draws his idea for the 50-cent stamp. And then Hennan says, carefully, could I keep this? And he says, sure. And he says, well, would you sign it and date it? So, it is signed and it is dated. I’m thrilled to say it's in my collection.

And so, when Hall's back at headquarters, his bureau, they still have to go through a process of coming up with three designs and selecting the best design. And so, in the top row, you have the three designs that the artist came up with at the Bureau. And the one on the far right is Alvin's design - zeppelin's turned around, a few things different, but basically his design. And then in the next row you see how it kind of changed over time. So, these are photographs of the essays created at the Bureau. And what that means is, during a very short period of time, to speed things up, 'cause it takes a lot of time to do these little paintings and etchings and things, they would photograph something and send it around in house into the post office for approvals and ideas.

And so, these are photographs of the original essays, except for one. So, if you look at the one in the very middle and you look carefully at the hangar and at the text, you can see there are images

Laid on top of the essay, original essay. And so, a photograph was taken and so, therefore, this is actually the essay because there was none created other than through the photographic process.

So, this is a very unique little moment in the design and process at the Bureau. The designer for this stamp, I mean, well, Alvin Klein was the originator of the idea, the actual designer was Victor McCloskey. And this is his original ink artwork. And that would be taken along with models to the engraving room. And you would have different engravers engraving the die. You'd have one person do the big net, somebody else would do the lettering, and somebody else would do the numerals, because they were all experts and specialists in their own way.

And at the right you can see the actual die of the $2 and 60 cents stamp. The plates were destroyed within a couple years, but the dies still survive. Unfortunately, you can't see it too clearly because they had a layer of wax put on them in order to protect them over time, so that unless there's a need to reuse a die, then you'd have to have a conservator clean it in order to save it properly. But that's what the die looks like now. What's really important about that is because we can take measurements, we know exactly what the dies were, so in today's world of people who collect die proofs -we have what in this era, what we call large die proofs and small die proofs -what we really know is it's all the same die proof, it's just they took a scissors and trimmed them. So, this gives you an example of the different sizes.

They made an exceptional set of die proofs at this time; it’s a unique set was made for Dr. Hugo Eckener. And so, instead of putting on the traditional papers, they put it on an oversized sheet and with text bounded in a book. And this was presented to Hugo Eckener from the Post Office in honor of the postmaster general, even though his assistant was there to hand it to him.

And Eckener, when he received this just precious item said, oh my gosh, I will treasure this forever, forever until a stamp collector came along who had deep pockets. Dr. Philip Cole was one of the leading aero philatelists of the day, won the Airmail Grand at the third international stamp show in New York in 1936. Here, you see Amelia Earhart handing him his award. He offered Eckener $2,000 at that time, which I had calculated in today’s money as, oh, I’m not going to come up with it so quickly, as $40,000.

So, Eckener thought, oh, this is a lot of money to put toward running this ship. So, he took the $2,000, wrote an inscription about this is to my dear friend, you know, and here's the exciting thing, these are in the National Stamp Collection. You can actually go upstairs in the William H. Gross Gallery and see these unusual die proofs on display.

Here's a die proof from the 50 center. It's one of the large die proofs. What's fun with the plate block on the right is it's signed by the designer and two of the engravers. That's kind of a perk.

When you can get into the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to do research, they have these kind of documents; they're called stamp histories. And they give all the important details for the BEP for tracking who did what when, how many, et cetera. So, for example, on the one on the left, which is a $2 and 61, if you go away to the bottom, you find out, oh, they made five plates, but they only printed four and that's because one of the plates was defective. So, all kinds of rich detail on these. Unfortunately, these are not online. I hope in my own lifetime, someday, all these stamp histories become available for scholars.

So, once the die is completed, it's hardened. By the way, when they engrave, they engrave backwards. So, it's hardened, then it's transferred to this roll, like the steel roll, you see an example of here. And then that steel roll is used by the siderographer to transfer it onto the plate, line everything up perfectly, have every single impression equal. It was quite a job, and, for many years, these people at BEP would actually put their own initials on the plate. But, by the time the zeppelins were done, that wasn't being done anymore.

And after they've put all the images on the plate, they add the marginal markings, they harden the plate and they inspect it, then it goes to press. And these are the flatbed presses used at the time. And flatbed presses were what they used from the very beginning for the 1847s. They didn't maybe look like this, but at the same printing system was being used for about 100 years. At the same time, when this is going on, new printing techniques are coming in. So, they've introduced what's called the rotary press. And it's more high volume, but air mail stamps were lower volume, so they were still being done using the flatbread presses.

So, in the National Postal Museum collection, we have certified plate proofs. These are signed at the bottom on the date, the plate and the print has been approved. Many of these are online.

You can go into the museum website and look up for some of your favorite stamps. The information you can find on these sheets is just a treasure trove. And the example here of the 260 on the 1930s zeppelins, you can see the plate numbers are on all sides of the sheet.

And collectors really complained about that. They felt post office was taking advantage of them because so many people collected plate numbers and they had to have so many of them.

That was something that is rectified because here now in 1933, there are no side plate numbers.

You only have the plate numbers at the top and the bottom.

So, on the 1930s zeppelins on the one of the top plate numbers, you'll have an ‘F’ punched.

And that ‘F’ can mean different things depending on how you want to interpret it. It means the plate was hardened. And so, the 'F' could mean ‘finished,’ meaning they had completed the hardening. But the man who was the head of the hardening department was Frank Marty and so, a lot of people believe the ‘F’ referred to his own first initial, much like the siderographer had done earlier; we’ll never know. The plate block below it, the 21172, in err they punched an ‘F’ on that plate. So, then they had to remove it only on that one of the 1933, because they were no longer hardening the plate in the old technique. So, the ‘F’ no longer applied.

Instead look over on the far right and you see a ‘C’ and that’s for chromium. They started to experiment that year using chromium to harden. Earlier in the year, some of the stamps would  have ‘CS’ for chrome steel, but by now it was simply a ‘C’ located there. And you won’t find that on all the upper right corners because sometimes it didn’t get ink, sometimes it would be trimmed off.

But ,for me, it’s one of the rarest marginal marking blocks, and the reason is because everybody wanted a plate block. So, when you removed a plate block of six from the sheet, you couldn’t have a corner block with a ‘C’, so, finding those is a real challenge.

And if you like challenges, and I love challenges, try finding the corner guideline markings on stamps. So, no one can own that block in the middle of the sheet because that’s been divided into four panes. And if you want to get four examples, like I have here, the reason they’re so difficult, two things. If the perforating was a little off center, it knocked it out, but also dealers and collectors for many years thought those guidelines detracted from the value and a beauty of their stamp, so they would take a razor blade and remove the guideline. So, putting together a match set becomes a true challenge.

Talk a little about the perforations. Collectors had complained about they would take a sheet of stamps and they would use a knife to cut it into four panes. That meant a lot of straight edges, collectors didn’t like it. So, with the zeppelin stamps, they decided because they were high value going for collectors, they would be hand perforated and they would be perforated everywhere, no cutting with a knife. And so, they were hand fed in and then they were separated in half and then turned and handed in again and separated. But of course, things can go wrong. And so, you can see here a couple of what we call wild perfs; where if the paper gets folded, you might get a crazy perforation shape or you might miss the perfs completely or you might even get an albino section on your print, like the one at the bottom.

And let’s talk a little about the ink. A variety of things can happen with the ink. On the left top one, if you look right over the 50 cents, you can see wisps of ink. So, what happened is when they would ink the plate and then they would wipe it down and remove all ink from the top surface, so the ink is only in the recessed areas, but here you can see in the process of wiping, there are a few wisps left. So, it’s evidence of that work. The one below it, they obviously had a little drip and then, when it went through the press, that spread out into that beautiful, lovely dot.

And then on the bottom one is what we call a “plate variety.” That’s when out of four plates with 200 on each plate, 800 stamps, you’re going to find this one variety, once out of every 800 stamps. And if you look at the word postage between the top of the P and the O, there’s a dot and that’s a reoccurring plate variety. And you know, that’s something that collectors get really into all these kind of little details. Looking to the right, a couple of ways ink has been added to stamps.

At the top we have what’s called a “specimen stamp.” So, about a little over 1,400 of these stamps were sent to the UPU, the Universal Postal Union, in Switzerland. They, in turn, send examples of these stamps to every country in the world. Some of those countries will overprint it with a word like “specimen” or “muster” and put it in their archive as a reference. And so once in a great while, these get on the market. This one came out and was sold in auction in 1976.

And below it is what we call a “precancel,” and that’s when stamps are overprinted in advance of being used as a way to save up and speed up production for the processing of getting it through the mail.

And now, I’m going to shift to after the production part of the story to how the stamps are released and used. The 1930 stamps were sold in Washington DC on their first day of issue at two locations. The first location was the main post office, the building we are in right now, the building of the National Postal Museum, so that’s kind of fun. And the other place was at the Philatelic Agency at the postal headquarters. So, in this photograph, the man on the far right is William Mooney, he's the postmaster of Washington DC. And if you go up in the Gross Gallery and you go to the far end, there’s a beautiful wood paneled room, that was his office.

So just kind of fun to go in there. And what I love about this photograph, they bought the first sheet of stamps, that’s why they had the press take the photo. Look at the plate block’s already been removed. Tells you how they’re collecting them.

These are two examples of first day covers from Washington DC, the one on the left has more postage on it than it needs to be on this flight, but it sure is showy. It has three cachets. The cachets are those round and diamond-shaped rubber stamp markings. Those are all applied by the post office, and they’re evidence of when and where this flew on the Graf Zeppelin. In contrast, the one on the right with that zeppelin cache, also called a cachet, is a private cachet. And this is, the early 1930s is really a pioneer period in first day cover collecting and so you really don’t see a lot of private cachets on the mail.

So, the zeppelin stamps, the rates on those three stamps were designed to pay for different legs of the routes. And sometimes they could be combined, sometimes they’re used solo. So here I’ve made a list of all these rates. These are the rates where if you sent your mail to New York City, it went by ship to Germany and then was put on the zeppelin to go one of these various distances. Imagine in Great Depression dollars, if you wanted to have a cover and a card for every leg of this flight, you’d be spending a lot of money. And then you could also wait till the zeppelin got to Lakehurst in the United States, and send mail from Lakehurst. So that’s the final leg.

So, look at the one on the left that flew from Germany and look at the route in the cachet triangle, diamond-shaped cachet. The route goes all the way from Germany, Brazil, United States, and back. But when you look at the other one, the line only goes from the United States to Germany. And so that's where that cachet was connected to what the route was.

I’ll show you a couple fun varieties here. The one on the left looks maybe okay till you look at that cachet carefully. That was supposed to be the last leg from Lakehurst to Europe, but in err they put on the wrong cachet. So, they took a knife and scraped away all the lines where it wasn't supposed to be, and still sent it to the collector. We know how finicky collectors are. Can you imagine getting that in the mail? I wouldn't have been happy. But now, of course, it's a fun story.

And on the right is another one damaged in a different way; it was damaged in processing in the mail and so that's why it's got the special seals on it, official seals to seal it. Sometimes you'll find the US stamps on an envelope with stamps from other countries. So, in this example on the left, it was a first day cover that went to Berlin and then was connected in Friedrichshafen in Germany with the zeppelin.

But what's fun here is look at the two brown stamps. The one stamp was issued earlier, that's the one on the left. But the one on the right has a little overprint in the upper-left corner. And that stamp was issued specifically for this flight. Looking at the cover on the right, this is canceled in all four countries that the zeppelin went to on this flight. The only way you could make this cover is if you were on the flight. And this was made by one of the officers, Max Pruss, and he was also the postal officer on this flight. The postal officers on zeppelins were actually just like anyone working for the post office were sworn in to do their duty, so it was an official job.

And here are two other ways you find US stamps mixed with others, and that's to get the cover to the United States to then be put on the zeppelin. So, on the left you have a canal zone, on the right Nicaragua, and these would fly to Miami, then up to New York, then back down to Lakehurst to be put on the zeppelin to fly overseas.

So, now I'm going to shift to the 1933 mail.

These are both first day covers from October 2nd in New York City. And what I really like about both of these, you can see the plate numbers on both. There were four plates made for the 50-cents zeppelin, but only these two were available on this first day. So, it's kind of fun to have them on these covers.

But this wasn't the only first day. Well, we had only one first day for the first set. Now we have five first days in five cities. So, we also have Washington DC and the three cities where the zeppelin flew: Miami, Akron and Chicago. In Chicago, the newspaper, of course, promoted when the first zeppelin stamps were sold. They were sold to Carl Eitel, a German American who owned the Bismarck Hotel.

When the zeppelin landed, Eckener got off the ship and actually stayed in Chicago

and returned to Akron by train to meet up with the zeppelin, and he stayed in the Bismarck hotel. Carl Eitel took these stamps to the hotel and all of his guests were given free stamps to send mail by zeppelin. And then in the bottom one, the German American group sponsored this cachet, which you could buy for 10 cents and then add your stamps. And so, they bought a 1,000 dollars worth of stamps, which the Great Depression was a big deal. ’33 was the height of the Great Depression.

Here, I continue to show you some of the rates and routes. Notice that all the rates and routes are divisible by 50 cents. So, after the confusion with the first 1930 stamps, they went to a much simpler system by just having 50 cents in all the different combinations. So, one thing I want to  point out is first on the left you have the ones that went by ship to Germany, on the right you have the ones sent once the ship came to the United States. But look at Miami to Seville and Miami to Friedrichshafen, no published rate.

So, what happens when you put out the rates and stamp collectors see that there's no rate available for Miami to Europe. They're gonna figure out how to get around the system. So above it is a postcard for 50 cents sent from Miami to Europe, and it went through. Believe it or not, there were two rates at 50 cents: covers were 50 cents, but a postcard rate was also 50 cents. And the post office tracked both. the postcards are much, much scarcer than the covers.

So here are two ways, the few people who outsmarted the post office, they're probably less than two dozen of these examples around. Two ways they could outsmart the post office, they could spend 50 cents to send, to fly the zeppelin mail from Miami to Akron. In Akron, it was taken off the ship, so it would fly round trip to Chicago and then the mail was put back on the ship to fly to Europe. The other way is they would put the mail on to Chicago, it was taken off the ship, processed, put on a train back to Akron, and then for 50 cents going on.

Famous people, here you have the postmaster general sending to Harold Ickes, head of the Department of the Interior. Both were stamp collectors. And, of course, the most famous stamp collector, FDR. This was cacheted as a postmark on board,  sent from all the passengers and crew. And the only address is his picture, USA.

You could also mix with other countries. Here we have from Cuba and Nicaragua, again to make it to Miami to go up north. The Nicaragua stamp you can see has an upside-down overprint. And here again, mixing with different countries, the one on the left was done by crew member Ludwig Knorr. And the one on the right was where a collector thought, ah, we've got the zeppelin going over the ocean. I'm gonna create a piece of mail that will travel all the way around the world, including one step by zeppelin. And it's postmarked in Beijing and then goes to San Francisco and makes it around the world.

And, of course, as I mentioned earlier, we have the zeppelin stamp for the Postal Museum opening.

This is an imperf block of four. I love it. I don't own it, it's owned by the museum, but it's a stunner. So, when the museum opened in 1993, you better bet I was there when there's a zeppelin stamp. I made the Washington Post; you can see a circle with me standing in line to buy stamps and do my covers.

And you know, whenever you have valuable stamps, eh, sometimes not even valuable stamps, people want to recreate them to either defraud the post office, defraud collectors, or have fun with them in different ways. So, on the left, we have some, what I'd call false die proofs made by, we go with the name Panini. And in the middle we have, they don't come in this format obviously, but with laser printers today, people can turnout all kinds of great things. And on the right is an interesting idea, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing put out souvenir cards, so, people have taken the souvenir cards and created small die proofs and perforated stamps.

But of course, it's missing some of the text or the value or something like that. So, like anything, once you handle something a 1,000 times or more, you can pick these things out kind of quickly.

So, Hugo Eckener was well aware that stamp collectors were important to zeppelin flights. When the Hindenburg made its first flight to the United States, he went up to the International Stamp Show in New York. He actually carried the mail personally and delivered it to the show, and gave a speech in front of a crowd of zeppelin and stamp collectors thanking them for supporting postage stamps. I calculated the amount of mail carried in 1930 and ‘33, and based on the average of how much mail was carried, I figured he made close to, in today's world, was 135,000 then, close to $3 million value by stamp collectors sending mail on zeppelins. So, he was well aware of the value of the collector and appreciated them.

And then, finally, for those who want to learn more about zeppelin stamps, anything at all, I'll give you a few things to go for here. When this goes online, people can make screenshots, it'll be easy to do. But there are websites, there are groups, there are books, there are catalogs, there are articles, there are all kinds of ways that you can explore what's out there. And I thank you for your attention and I'm open to anyone who has a question.

(audience applauds)

Daniel Piazza (National Postal Museum): The first question from online, what markings or stamps on an envelope indicated that it should travel by ship to Germany and then return to the US on board a zeppelin? –

Chery Ganz: So, if you look on the postal bulletins, and by the way, all the postal bulletins are on our website. So, if you've got any stamp that you care about, please go look. You would have to have a slogan on there, something like by Graf Zeppelin, Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst. So, you had to add the routing, you had to have the correct rate, and you had to have the New York postmark. So, with those things, the post office had no trouble figuring out exactly where you wanted it to go.

Daniel Piazza: And were the 1930 zeppelin stamps restricted to zeppelin flights or could they be used on regular mail?

Cheryl Ganz: Both the 1930 and the 1933 zeppelin stamps could be used on any air mail to pay any services with that airmail cover. So, you couldn't use it on domestic mail. But let's say you wanted to send a registered air mail cover somewhere else, the next year you could use those stamps on an air mail cover.

Audience member: Hi. The slide you had about Chicago with the first stamp, I think it was Chicago, right? Where the hotel owner. –

Cheryl Ganz: Oh yes. Carl Eitel. –

Audience member: Yeah, so how did they determine who gets to buy the first set of stamps? –

Cheryl Ganz: So, one of the reasons the zeppelin came to Chicago was because Chicago had one of the largest German immigrant communities in the United States. And they repeatedly asked him to come. He actually visited in 1928, not with the zeppelin, on his own. And he said yeah at that time, promised one of these days, I'll come here. He then flew over Chicago again in 1929 on the world flight. So, when they invited them to come to the World's Fair, that's when they made an extension of their regular flight to South America, made a special extension on that.

The German American community was very powerful in Chicago. They had what they call the Germania Club and very active in such a variety of ways; everybody knew who the leadership was. So, Carl Eitel obviously gave a free hotel room to Eckener and probably did all kinds of other sponsorship things and that's why he was given that honor.

Audience member: Cheryl, one of the stamps that you showed had a zeppelin stamp with a precancel on it. In the 1930s, it was published in the postal bulletin that commemoratives could not be precanceled, that was strictly for definitive stamps. However, the zeppelins fall in between they're air mails, so was that a legitimate precancel to be used on whatever rate could use precancels, or was that a favor item?

Cheryl Ganz: That's a good question because I have never seen a one used on piece.

Oops, I Just touched something.

I've never seen one officially used or properly used, but I have seen about four or five examples of precancels. Because this one, I chose this one because it's Akron, it's much more likely that someone had leftover postage, so they took it to the office and used it. But I can't tell you for sure.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Daniel Piazza: Is it possible to create flight covers on tourist flights today? You wouldn't know anything about that, right?

Is there any way to get a cover canceled before, after, or onboard a flight now?

Cheryl Ganz: So, is this a friend of mine, that's what I want to know.

Daniel Piazza:  I don't know I don't recognize the name.

Cheryl Ganz: So, there are zeppelins flying today. Goodyear actually flies zeppelins, they call them blimps, but they're made by the Zeppelin Company, and in Germany there are quite a few of them flying. I've flown several times myself. I just took a flight during the IBRA stamp show last May, and I carried mail, which I sent to a lot of my friends, but they don't have an onboard marking, where the Graf Zeppelin actually had a post office operational on board. And so today when you take a flight on a zeppelin, you can create a cachet, you can take it to the post office to get a postmark, and you know, you get the pilot's autograph, they're happy to do it. So, it's actually carried, but it's privately created. The mail isn't collected by the post office and done officially, although, you know, the post office certainly could do that if they wanted to.

Audience member: When and why were the excess zeppelin stamps destroyed?

Cheryl Ganz: I think they really overestimated sales and so when they brought back the redeemed copies of the 1930s and destroyed them. Because they had a date they went off sale and they really didn't want them used for other things.  You couldn't use it, for example, on a parcel or something that would normally have a high value. So that's one of the reasons they destroyed all those extras, for that reason. today the post office tries to be much more judicious

in planning how much to print, according to what they believe sales will be.

I think 1930, you know, the depression was really in its earliest stages, and they really didn't understand how much impact that would have. By ‘33, though they way overprinted and misunderstood the market at the time. I think they just didn't want the leftover stock. Where were they destroyed? I mean, I would certainly guess at the postal headquarters that's where they had to be returned. But there are no photographs, or I've gone through all the postal archives that exist and there's no - they talk extensively about destroying them - but no evidence of exactly when and where and how. I'm assuming they went in an incinerator. –

Audience Member: Thank you.

Daniel Piazza:  That's always been my understanding too, that they were incinerated.

Any tips for distinguishing fakes?

Cheryl Ganz; Well, whenever you have engraved stamps and you rub your finger across them, you can feel the engraving. So, in today's laser printing, if they're doing a laser print of an engraved stamp, you aren't going to  get that feel. And that's one thing and the other thing is, I would say, you know, if you're buying this kind of material, you should have reference copies of something to compare it to. There are so many stamps from this time period that you can buy for a dime to 25 cents, where you could compare the quality of printing, the paper and everything else. So almost every collector should start some kind of little reference collection. And I actually acquire forgeries and fakes and that, when I can, so that I am able to distinguish

certain problems. And also articles are written on fakes and so you should keep an eye out, especially if you collect modern material. We're right now going through terrible problems with fakes of so many of our stamps. And so, you want to watch the current publications and follow that.

Daniel Piazza: No more questions online, but I'll just say there were 263 viewers on the website.

Cheryl Ganz: Thank you, thank you, thank you. –

Audience member: You showed a whole slew of beautiful covers that all seem to be collector generated. Is there any evidence of any actual commercial mail on these flights?

Cheryl Ganz: Yes, but not very much using the US zeppelin stamps. So, on these flights from Germany to Brazil is a route where there's a lot of business mail, so I own a lot of that. I mean it exists. I have a couple examples of what you would call family correspondence using the 50-cent stamps, so that you'd have a family who lives in the United States writing to their family back home. And the business correspondence I tend to have has a corner card with a German named company, maybe writing to another company, but you can't tell if it's business mail or collector friends writing to each other. So, I would say the US zeppelin stamps on commercial mail would not be a common thing. And the other thing you'll find is some advertising mail, which you know, you could call commercial.

Okay, finally to conclude, let me say, today, this is being taped on November 2nd. Today, the Graf Zeppelin landed in Germany in Friedrichshafen at the end of the Chicago flight. So, it's the 90th anniversary today at the end of the flight. So, thank you all very much.

(Audience applauds.)

Everyone wants to own a set of zeppelin stamps from the 1930s. But why did the Post Office Department issue four zeppelin stamps to subsidize a German aircraft’s operations during the Great Depression? Why were the values of these stamps so high and who received all that money? How did the rates and routes change from 1930 to 1933? Why were zeppelins important to transoceanic mail service?

Attendees learned the stories about these zeppelin stamps that are so iconic to philatelists today. Dr. Ganz traced production of the issues at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from source materials to die proofs to certified plate proofs with marginal markings. The first days of issue examples covered the various city postmarks and private cachets. Finally, she illustrated when and where Graf Zeppelin flew mail with U.S. franking and the many ways that passengers, crew, and collectors sought to create varieties.

About Cheryl Ganz

Cheryl Ganz headshot

Cheryl R. Ganz PhD RDP is a social/cultural historian and lifelong stamp collector. These two interests have directed her research in both local postal history and zeppelin posts.

Ganz is a Smithsonian Institution Curator Emerita following her retirement as the Chief Curator of Philately at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and as lead curator of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the world’s largest postage stamp gallery. She currently serves as president of the American Philatelic Society, as the USA Midwest representative of the Royal Philatelic Society London, and as a member on the USPS Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, the committee that selects subjects and reviews designs for U.S. postage stamps.

Her exhibits, publications, and talks focus on her specialty of zeppelin posts and memorabilia worldwide, especially from U.S. airships, the 1933 Graf Zeppelin Chicago flight, and Hindenburg. She founded and administers the Facebook group of Zeppelin & Airship Collectors, and edited and co-edited “The Zeppelin Collector” for 37 years. In addition to zeppelin material, she collects Wisconsin postal history, Germany, Switzerland, and China.

Her lifelong philatelic outreach at local, national, and international levels engages a vast spectrum of collectors from specialists to new audiences. Philatelic recognitions include the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, APS Luff Award for Exceptional Contributions to Philately, Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award, Writers Unit Hall of Fame, Alfred F. Lichtenstein Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to Philately, Mortimer L. Neinken Medal, Carlrichard Brühl Medal, Carl Lindenberg Medal, Wisconsin Philatelic Hall of Fame, AAMS Aerophilatelic Research Award, RPSL Lee Medal, Nicolas Carter National Service Award, USPCS Distinguished Philatelist Award, Elizabeth C. Pope Lifetime Achievement Award, FISA Gold Medal, Canadian Aerophilatelic Society Award, Chris Hunt Award, Newberry Award, and the Single Frame Champion of Champions.

Ganz earned a PhD in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her publications include The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: A Century of Progress; Delivering Hope: FDR & Stamps of the Great Depression; Fire & Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic; Favorite Finds; Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail; Every Stamp Tells a Story: The National Philatelic Collection; Zeppelin Hindenburg: An Illustrated History of LZ-129, and U.S. Zeppelin and Airship Mail Flights plus more than one hundred articles.