Important Two-page Autograph Letter Signed on Anchoring Airships on Water: “The anchors must not be raised”

Signed by Ferdinand Zeppelin

Item: 19324
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ZEPPELIN, FERDINAND. (1838-1917). German engineer who built the first dirigible. ALS. (“Gf. Zeppelin”). 2pp. 8vo. Berlin, March 19, 1901. To his secretary Ernst Uhland. In German with translation.

Drygalski is unlikely to give 55 M. How much? – That I will find out from Major Klessmann. I reserve the right to decide whether we will accept his offer until after I have discussed it with you. I have no objections to giving away another 6–800 bottles, as I will have more containers from the department of aviation at my disposal in case there are further trials. But the rest I want to hold onto for the time being. I don’t foresee any news for the next few days. The anchors must not be raised. If the buoy has to be brought to land, it is crucial that precautions be taken that the cables not get lost on the bottom of the sea… Mr. Sigsfeld says wherever the document of the Aviation Dept. mentions ‘liter’ when referring to a material’s density, it should read ‘grams’ instead.

A zeppelin backing out of its floating shed on Lake Constance in 1909

Zeppelin’s fascination with air travel began during the American Civil War. He made his first balloon ascent as a Union Army observer during that conflict, and as a Prussian army officer he later pushed for the development of similar aeronautic innovations. Yet, it was only after retiring from the army in 1890 that his airship career literally “took off.” From his Friedrichshafen factory, Zeppelinjoined the race to build a viable steerable airship. Delayed by a lack of funding, Zeppelin finally completed construction of the first rigid airship in 1900, and the initial flight of this untethered, lighter-than-air craft was a success. Zeppelin continued to improve the airship’s design but, having exhausted his personal savings, he was in constant need of funding to continue his work.

Our letter showcases the early involvement of German geographer and explorer Erich Dagobert von Drygalski (1865-1949) in Zeppelin’s work. Drygalski led several expeditions in Greenland as well as the first German expedition to Antarctica, the so-called Gauss Expedition which departed on August 1901 and returned November 1903. During the expedition Drygalski became the first to use a gas balloon in Antarctica and collected several volumes of scientific data. In 1910, he participated in Zeppelin’s Arctic trials expedition to Spitsbergen.

Hans Bartsch von Sigsfeld (1861-1902) was a German inventor who developed the kite balloon with August von Parseval and had a passionate interest in the construction of airships; Sigsfeld died in a ballooning accident in Belgium. Our letter discusses the supplying of gas containers to Zeppelin by the military’s department of aviation, which demonstrates the cooperation between Zeppelin and the military during the early stages of his research.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and his airship


Written on two folded sheets held together by a blind embossed monogrammed seal. With a file hole in the upper margin. Docketed in red pencil in the lower left corner of the first page; lightly worn and in overall fine condition. Early Zeppelin letters about his invention are rare and desirable.

Important Two-page Autograph Letter Signed on Anchoring Airships on Water: “The anchors must not be raised”

Signed by Ferdinand Zeppelin

$3000 • item #19324

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