One of the highlights of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the German airship Graf Zeppelin on the morning of October 27, 1933, from Akron, Ohio. After circling Lake Michigan near the exposition for two hours, Captain Hugo Eckener landed the 776-foot airship at the nearby Curtis-Wright Airport in Glenview. It remained on the ground for twenty-five minutes, during which time Postmaster General James A. Farley boarded, after which the dirigible took off ahead of an approaching weather front for the return trip to Akron, Ohio, from whence it returned to Friedrichshafen.
For some Chicagoans, however, the appearance of the Graf Zeppelin was not a welcome sight as the airship bore the swastika symbol on its tail against the protests of Captain Eckener, who disapproved of the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler, who had ascended to power in Germany earlier that year.
The United States issued a special 50-cent stamp for the Century of Progress zeppelin flight, which is often referred to as the “Baby Zeppelin” [Scott C18] when contrasted with three higher-denomination zeppelin stamps issued in 1930. It depicts the Graf Zeppelin between the Chicago Federal Building and the zeppelin hangar at Friedrichshafen and paid the rate for letters equal to or less than ½ oz. carried on the flight.
The cover shown here was carried on the flight back to Friedrichshafen from Chicago (via Akron), from whence it was delivered to Mersch, Luxembourg. The corner card is that of the well-known downtown Chicago hotel, The Palmer House. It bears the Chicago, Illinois, October 26, 1933, slogan machine cancel reading “Century of Progress World’s Fair Chicago June-Nov. 1933,” and, on the back, the green receipt cancels of Friedrichshafen (Bodensee), Germany, November 2, 1933, and Mersch, November 3, 1933 [Prifix Z49b].
A rare example of zeppelin mail to Luxembourg, it is also a nostalgic reminder of an age in which quiet, clean, comfortable lighter-than-air ships traveled around the globe. Perhaps they will return in another age when the Earth’s hydrocarbon resources have been depleted.