Saturday, October 14, 2017

More Poking Fun at Beer in Milwaukee


In May 2015 I posted on this blog a series of humorous trade cards and postcards from Milwaukee sources, including breweries, that poked fun at its image as America’s “beer town.” In the intervening months I have collected an additional group of similar images that also deserve viewing.  

The “Happy Days in Milwaukee” postcard provides an appropriate opening to the topic.  Here we are looking at a vested gent who apparently is fishing while sucking on a beer keg floating beside his boat.  He also has a bottle of beer within his reach behind the lawn chair in which he is reclining.   The well-stuffed gent also appears to have caught a fish whose tail sticks up in the bow of the boat.  Relaxation at its best.
The well-dress, top-hatted figure in the postcard above similar looks relaxed — or more likely drunk.  He is a two-fisted drinker, with a stein of beer in either hand.  The reference to Wurzburger flowing in Milwaukee is puzzling since it refers to a beer first brewed by a German bishop in 1643.  Among the earliest German beers to be imported into the U.S., it was made only in Wurzburg, never in Milwaukee.

There follows the images of a stout burgher in a bowler hat drinking straight from the barrel, providing “One View of Milwaukee, according to the captions.  This postcard came in more than one version with the colors of the drinker’s clothing changing while the basic concept did not.

“Touring Milwaukee” is a more subtle reminder of the many large breweries that once graced the city.  The vehicle illustrated has a beer barrel with spigot as the engine and two open steins as the headlights.  For good measure the driver has a third stein ready at hand.  Two containers at the side are labeled with favorite Milwaukee foods — “sauerkraut” and “frankfurter.”
In an oblique reference to the increasing strength of prohibitionary forces, the card above alludes to the fact that brewery owners largely were German in origin. Milwaukee is “Breweryville” and the five characters at the end of rope apparently their owners who, if Wisconsin goes “dry”:  “We Germans must hang together side by each.”   A similar card from Heilman Brewery in LaCrosse, Wisconsin has a slightly different message:  “If this town goes dry, us Germans will hang togeder.”


The Jung beer trade card is known to collectors as a “mechanical.”  When issued it contained a white powder that flowed, if tilted, from the huge stein in the imbiber’s hand down to the pitcher being filled by the rosy cheeked barmaid.  Philipp Jung was born in Germany in 1845 and immigrated to Milwaukee in 1870.  After working in the Jacob Best Brewery and marrying his daughter, Jung broke away to found his own brewery in 1879.  It became a rival to the Best Brewery and its successor beer-maker run by another Best son-in-law, Frederick Pabst.
If you like puns, then a card likely issued by Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewery may tickle your funny bone.  It takes advantage of a fashion statement begun at the turn of the 20th century when Paul Poiret revolutionized women's dress by introducing a skirt that was that was long and fitted but frequently featured a slit that revealed the wearer’s ankles.   The proximity of “slits” to “Schlitz” seems to have overcome the good sense of the card designer, leading to the image shown here.

Sometimes the humor involved in Milwaukee beer-related ephemera seems unintended.  Such is the “Pabst Everywhere”  card that shows four construction workers, apparently on their lunch break, one of whom is drinking from a large vessel.  The tag line is “Pabst-Milwaukee is enjoyed by the workingman.”  Yet one is left wondering how steady on the job these midday drinkers will be after drinking their lunch. 

The final example is an advertisement for a 1904 Pabst Calendar showing 12 children from a wide range of countries, each attached to a month.  This calendar could be obtained from the Milwaukee brewery for ten cents in coin or stamps.
It is called a “stork calendar” and shows a large bird front and center, one that apparently has brought the tots.  It occurs to me that a subliminal message is:  “Drink beer and make babies.”  But it just may be me.

The identification of Milwaukee with beer long since has faded into obscurity.
The Jung Brewery closed with National Prohibition.  Schlitz sold out in 1982.  Pabst is a holding company with a blizzard of brands, no longer headquartered in in Milwaukee but in Los Angeles.  Only Miller remains of the major breweries that once identified the city as “beer town.”  Yet remaining to us are these reminders of a day when Milwaukee gloried in the suds —and laughed about it as well.









































Sunday, October 1, 2017

Newspaper Paperweights — Securing the News


Certain industries seem to have made the paperweight a preferred method of marketing.  Newspapers were among them, with two modes.  One was a heavy metal bar that was given to newsstands to keep their papers from blowing away.  The second, to be considered here, were smaller, lighter paperweights that carried an advertising message and meant for the general public.

Boston newspapers seem to have vied for attention most competitively.  The Boston American chose for its weight to feature Mutt and Jeff, two popular cartoon characters created by Bud Fisher and running daily in the American.  Begun in 1907, the strip ran nearly fifty years and was one of my favorites as a kid.  The American was even older, having been founded as a tabloid in 1904.  It became part of William Randolph Hearst’s chain of newspapers, eventually merged with other local sheets but the name disappeared in 1961.

The Boston Herald, founded in 1846 and still in circulation, is one of the oldest daily newspapers in America. Over its history it has received many awards including at least eight Pulitzer Prizes.   The Herald chose to advertise through a paperweight and pocket mirror with a newsboy hawking the “New England’s greatest newspaper.”  Initially a full-sized sheet, the paper converted to tabloid format in 1981.

Choosing to advertising its status as having the largest circulation in New England via the spacious belly of a cartoon character, the Boston Globe could boast at least 26 Pulitzers.  Founded in 1872 it is locally owned and in 2016 had a circulation of 245,814, making it the 25th most read newspaper in America.  Its investigative team was the basis of the 2015 motion picture, “Spotlight.”

Perhaps the most classy weight ever issued by a newspaper came from The New York Post, a newspaper that claims its origins in 1801 and Alexander Hamilton.  It issued a crystal apple made by Tiffany & Company.  It is etched in acid “New York Post, The Juice of the Apple.”  The modern version of the paper is published in tabloid format and has been owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch since 1976.  Just as Murdoch bears no resemblance to Hamilton, the Post has no resemblance to the respected paper of the past.

Another attractive contemporary glass etched paperweight is from the Baltimore Sun, another newspaper that has declined from past glory.  The paper once was known for its overseas presence.  At its height, the Sun ran eight foreign bureaus, giving rise to a 1983 ad that “The Sun never sets on the world.”  Unfortunately those sunny days have since departed since the paper was bought by the Chicago Tribune.  One by one those overseas bureaus closed and in recent years the Sun has declined in quality and readership.

The Cleveland News could trace its antecedents back to 1868, officially being founded in September 1905.  Who Geo. E. Harper was, my research has failed to reveal.  I assume he was a major figure on the staunchly Republican newspaper and decided to issue a paperweight.  Always the third newspaper in Cleveland behind the Plain-Dealer and the Press, it suffered financially during the Great Depression and closed in 1960 when it was absorbed by the Cleveland Press.
Even smaller newspapers often issued weights.  The New Haven Evening Register selected one of its front pages for its glass artifact.  Founded in 1912, the Register is a daily owned by the Hearst interests that covers 19 cities and towns within New Haven and Middlesex Counties.  Like other dailies, especially those published in the afternoon, this paper has suffered declines in circulation in recent years.

The paperweight shown here emphasizes the years in which its several newspapers were founded:  The Intelligencer Journal in 1794, Lancaster New Era in 1877, and Sunday News in 1923.  Unfortunately, none of them are currently extant.  Instead the LNP Media Group owns and publishes LNP, a daily newspaper in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and several other local publications.  It is controlled by a family, however, whose roots in local journalism go back to 1866.

The Herald-Palladium has had its current name only since 1975, it can trace its origins back to 1868 when the Palladium was established as a local weekly.  It serves the twin cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan, towns that sit on opposite sides of the St. Joseph River as it flows toward Lake Michigan. After a dizzying series of mergers, acquisitions and name changes over the years, the current paper emerged in 1975.  Its paperweight shows a light house on Lake Michigan.

Even U.S. weekly newspapers might issue paperweights.  Shown here is an attractive item from the Cayuga Herald of Cayuga, a town of barely over 1,000 residents in Vermillion County, Indiana.  This newspaper had a relatively short run, being founded in 1891 by one Charles E. Cook and out of business a decade later.  This allows a much more precise dating of the weight, one that has a element of crudeness in its fashioning that renders it interesting as a glasshouse product.

The final paperweight carries an element of mystery about it.  Was issued by a “Ledger” newspaper but there are at least six U.S. journals, past and present, that carry that name.  It has an ad for Hires Root Beer, which dates from 1876 until today — no help at all.  I  have included the weight here because the delightful little girl is wearing a hat made from a newspaper.  Head coverings similar to this one have been popular with printers since the 1700s.  They would make a paper hat at the start of each day to keep grease, paint, paper lint, and oil out of their hair.

In featuring newspaper paperweights I have just included a dozen of the more interesting examples.  Dozens more exist for the collector, providing a window into the history and development of the American newspaper.
























Sunday, September 17, 2017

Examining Risqué Bitters Advertising

Having examined in four previous posts the risqué images that often accompanied whiskey advertising, attention here moves to the sometimes racy, sometimes double entendre, world of bitters beverage merchandising.   

While some bitters may not have had the same alcohol content as liquor, they almost always eclipsed the amounts found in wine and beer.  For most of the 1800s, they were advertised with extravagant claims about their ability to cure all manner of diseases including malaria, kidney stones, rheumatism and even impotency.  With the coming of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 most purveyors toned down their advertising to dealing with problems of digestion and defecation.   

In order to spark interest, however, bitters manufacturers often resorted to advertising in trade cards and postcards with images meant to titillate the viewers.  Among the leading purveyors was Lash’s Bitters, a company founded in Cincinnati and later moved to San Francisco.  It specialized in “hold to the light” cards in which a fully dressed woman when lighted from behind is shown in underclothing.  One is shown here.

It also could go farther in its saucy images.  Shown above is a tableau in which the five senses are cited.  It shows a young woman who is seeing a figure in the distance, is hearing his approach at the door, smelling the bouquet he has brought, each feeling the warmth of their embrace, and finally tasting — what?It takes little imagination to understand what is going on.

Only rarely did the bitters makers resort to nudity but Lash’s provided the public with an example that was clothed in a medical context.  A doctor is examining a very attractive female patient who, according to the caption, has “heart trouble.”  She has pulled up her night gown so that the attending physician can listen.  Although the stethoscope was invented in 1816 and was standard equipment for U.S. physicians in 1900, this doctor has decided that an ear pressed to a breast gives a better diagnosis — or something.

George M. Pond was the manager of Lash’s branch in Chicago.  Having mastered the art of selling bitters, he struck out on his own, establishing a company he called the Ponds Bitters Company located at 149-153 Fulton Street, Chicago.  For some 15 years, employing many of the merchandising ploys he learned at Lash’s, he thrived.  Those included risqué advertising, with several examples shown here.  The first, “Stopped for a Puncture, with an outrageous double meaning, is my favorite.

The ad “Maud with her little bear behind,” shown front and back, was a somewhat bizarre take on an old knee-slapper anecdote.   Shown below left is a Ponds card titled “Taking in the Sights”  and the card right bears a caption indicating that the man on the phone is giving an excuse to his wife about being late for dinner.

In June 1916, the city prosecutor of Chicago filed suit against Pond’s Bitters Company,   A test of the product by the health commissioner had found that Pond’s Bitters were more than 20 percent alcohol and required the company to obtain a license for selling spiritous liquor.  The suit sought $200 in damages from Pond’s which likely was instantly coughed up since the amount  was a small price to pay for immense profits being reaped from the bitters.

Many distillers and whiskey wholesalers featured a line of bitters — for good reason.  As “medicine” they did not fall under the liquor revenue laws and escaped significant taxation.  Second, bitters could be sold in dry states, counties and communities where whiskey was banned.  Among those taking advantage of these opportunities was Alexander Bauer, a Chicago liquor wholesaler, with a reputation for chicanery, as well as the ribald.  Look closely at this Pepsin Kola and Celery Bitters ad and the story becomes clear.

Carmeliter Bitters and its “come hither” lady bearing an “elixir of life,” poses something of a mystery regarding its origins.  The several variants of the bottle are embossed with different names, including Frank R. Leonori & Co. and Burhenne & Dorn.  Leonori was a New York City organization located at 82 Wall Street.  Burhenne & Dorn was a liquor house in Brooklyn at 349 Hamburg Avenue.  This nostrum was alleged to be for “all kidney & liver complaints.”

Union Bitters advertised that it would be found “grateful and comforting” where manhood needed to be restored or where “men have lost their self-respect.”  The Union Bitters recipe is recorded containing gentian, peruvian bark, roman chamomile, quassia bark, bitter orange peel and most important, 50% alcohol.  As if those ingredients were not enough to strike an erotic spark, Union Bitters provided a “mechanical” trade card which initially purports to show a peeping gent seeing a woman’s bare behind.  Opening the card, it is revealed as a a pig’s hind end.
The final trade card is from Dr. Roback’s Stomach Bitters.  Those in the know relate that Dr. Roback was neither a doctor nor named Roback. He was an unsuccessful farmer turned salesman who in 1844 escaped debtor’s prison in his native Sweden and headed for America.  As Dr. Roback in Boston he sold horoscopes and founded an astrological college.  Then he moved into patent medicines and a bitters nostrum, selling his stomach bitters first from Philadelphia and later from Cincinnati where he died in 1867.

Although the dozen items shown here are just a few example of the risqué advertising from bitters manufacturers, they demonstrate the range of images chosen to intrigue and sell a customer.  

Note:  For anyone interested in seeing the images from my four posts on risque' images in whiskey advertising, they appeared in January 2011, July 2012, July 2013, and January 2017.



























Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fortune Cookies Have Told My Life’s Story

   
No, not really, but I have collected several dozen fortune slips over the years that have had particular interest.  My modus operandi is to take a Chinese fortune of note and scotch tape it to a beer mug.  Every so often, as the mug surface fills up, I take them off and paste them on paper.  Because Wednesday, September 13, 2017, is National Fortune Cookie Day, I am prepared to reveal much of what they have told me, beginning about 1975 and up to the present day.  

Early Fortunes:   One fortune that clearly caught my attention went this way:  “It is very possible that you will achieve greatness in your lifetime.”   Well, that really did not happen.  I have not sought anonymity but it has pursued me relentlessly throughout my life.  More promising was another cookie fortune:  “Your family is young, gifted and attractive.”  I’d like to think that was true — both sons proved to be gifted and achieved advanced degrees — but none of us is young anymore.

My career involved a great deal of travel and I was able to work all over the world, but occasionally got becalmed with home office work and chafed to go abroad.  Perhaps that was the situation when the following came to me:  “Traveling more often is important for your health and happiness.”   Another cookie provided a formula for successful travel:  “You have the ability to adapt to diverse situations.”

2002-2009 Fortunes:  This one seemed at least partially appropriate, if not exactly predictive:  “You are a lover of words.  Someday you will write a book..”  By the time this showed up I had written the only serious book I would ever write — about the war powers of the President and Congress.  During this period, however, I cobbled together three books on whiskey containers that were self-published and in limited editions, sold out.

“Cleaning up the past will always clear up the future!”  Now that is something to think about.  At the urging of friends I did a brief autobiography called “Memoirs of a Spear Carrier.”  To my knowledge none of the revelations there about my past life really cleaned things up.  Nor, it now seems, did the future become any more clear.  For that one needs more fortune cookies.

During this period I received a cookie that had its own irony attached.  It read:  “You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music.”  It was a reminder that for a time on a newspaper I was assigned to review performances of classical music, of which I actually knew nothing.  My standard line for concerts of stringed instruments was to compliment “deft fingering.”  After comparing the cello to “a beautiful woman,” and throwing in a note on deft fingering, the paper relieved me of those responsibilities — to my great relief.
2009 to Present:  In the most recent period, I find some fortunes prophetic.  For example:  “You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.”  I can think of one in Micronesia a few years ago.  We sat outside in a circle and a drank a liquid pounded from the root of a muddy pepper plant, strained through a palm frond.  After I took one sip of the green slimy stuff, pity was taken on the haole (white person) and I was give coffee as a chaser.

Another is:  “You would make a good lawyer.”  That is the profession my mother had in mind for me and over the years I have been involved in making laws (Congressional staff) and criticizing them (local government).  The city attorney in my city assumed I was a lawyer.  My reaction is to be thankful I chose journalism instead of the law.  Lots more fun and fewer responsibilities.

As I move into the twilight of life, some fortunes clearly are out of touch with reality.  For instance:  “You shall seek out new adventures.”  And: “You have an important new business development shaping up.” Still others seem problematic:
“You will maintain health and enjoy life” and “Your winsome smile will be your sure protection.”    More cogent is the following cookie-born advice:  “Relish the transitions in your life — they will happen regardless.”  

Ten days from now when Fortune Cookie Day rolls around, you can be sure I will be ordering in Chinese food and asking for my fortune cookie.  Who knows, it may give me something to think about — and perhaps paste up for future reference.  






Saturday, August 19, 2017

Poses of the Pig

Having early been exposed to hogs on a family farm and later as a journalist writing about livestock,  I have had fixation on pigs — most precisely, the depiction of pigs in various formats.   In August  2009 on this blog I posted an article entitled “Swigging the Pig,”  a look at pig-shaped whiskey bottles.   Subsequently I have collected a variety of swine images, some comic, others not so, and believe it time to visit this pig pen.

The first object is a ceramic sow who is eagerly drinking from a jug of whiskey.  This figurine graced my office for decades, part of the collection of hillbilly items that surrounded my work space.  Looking at it never ceased to amuse me, so delighted did the pig seem with its gulp of liquor.  As a result of a recent downsizing, however, this image now resides in the collection of the Ralph Foster Museum on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri.  


No company in the U.S. is more closely identified with swine than the Cudahy Packing Company.  Founded by immigrant Irish brothers, it was carried forward over the years by family members who expanded its operations from Milwaukee to other cities and became one of America’s largest pork packing houses.  The Omaha packing house was founded in 1887 by Michael Cudahy.  It issued this “mechanical” trade card of a hog, shown above and below, urging viewers to pull its nose.   Then are revealed sausages, a ham, bacon and a container of lard.  

The French are less sensitive about the process by which such products are achieved and on a trade card from Auvergne, a region in central France, it provided an image of a happy pig slicing its own belly to obtain sausages.  The message tells us that we can eat this meat with pleasure and not get tired.  While the image has elicited considerable comment on the Internet, found to be from funny to disgusting, observers disagree on what “Cochon Prodique” means — the most logical explanation being that a pig provides a extremely generous amount of meat.

The pigs in the next ad provide a contrast between a hog that has been fed “Merry War Lye” and fattened up for the slaughter and a sadly emaciated one who likely will have its life spared for the time being.   The fat one has been fed Merry War Lye, apparently a powdered miracle product that could be used around the farm yard for a myriad of purposes.   Not only could you feed lye to your hogs but it also had uses for poultry, cattle, making soap, using on fruit trees, as fertilizer, in the barn, the silo and around the dairy. 

Lots of advertisers seem to like to dress up their swine. From a Sacramento grocery comes this image of a pig complete with red striped britches, frock coat, top hat, cravat, and vest with watch fob, who is smoking a cigarette on a holder.  The tag line is an enigma:  “I’m a Dandy, But I’m No Dude.”  Actually, a small pig raised for pet purposes is called a “Dandie Extreme,” with prices starting at $2,500 and additional fees amounting in the hundred.  The porker here is touting his hams — unaware of the fate that lies ahead.

An advertising pocket mirror from the Allbright-Nell Company, seemingly based in Illinois, was unabashed in its depiction of what happens to even the best of swine.  The company manufactured a mechanism and straps that held the animals in slaughter houses and butcher shops.  In one of his novels, William Faulkner provided a graphic description of such hanging hogs.  He says they appear to be “running into eternity.”  

Another frequent use of the pig images is to show it in unlikely activities, as here, riding a roller skate.  This is a framed exhortation, the kind sometimes seen on the walls of organizations that claim to be able to “change your life.”  In this case, “Never Be Afraid to Try Something New.”  For example, try launching your $2,500  dandie piglet on a single roller skate.  Just plain fun.

Pig images also can have practical uses, like this bottle opener from Finck’s Overalls.”  The company’s tagline “Wears Like a Pig’s Nose” was a phrase known throughout the country.  Headquartered in Detroit, Finck made quality denim garments for farm workers and laborers — both occupational groups who might need an opener for their beer bottles.  After the brand was purchased from the Finck family by a competitor it was discontinued in 1960.

The animal in its various forms also the subject of puns.  Note the chaotic scene shown here on a trade card in which a thief attempting to abduct piglet is being challenged by the adult hogs in the pen.  The thief is said to be in a “Pig-A-Rious Position.”  My efforts to find something about Henry Max and his restaurant and refreshment saloon have gone unrewarded. Located in the Shamut District of Boston, Montgomery Place today shows no semblance of a saloon.

The final pig image needs no further explanation.  As the reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel charged with covering the livestock competitions at the Wisconsin State Fair, I wrote with such poetic eloquence that I became known as “The Swinburne of the Swine Barns.”   Here, however, words escape me.  Except one observation:  A hog as ugly as this one would never have been voted any kind of ribbon.




















Friday, August 4, 2017

Remembering the Airship USS Akron

          
Among the most familiar images to Americans was the crash of the Hindenburg zeppelin in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, killing 36 of the 97 people aboard.  It was not, however, the greatest airship disaster.  That was the destruction of the USS Akron in a storm off the New Jersey coast on April, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers aboard.  Representing the greatest loss of life in any airship crash, today the accident is little remembered.

In its heyday, the Navy’s airship Akron was highly publicized resulting in a number of images and artifacts. The Akron and her sister ship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever made.   While the German zeppelins were larger, they were filled with hydrogen.  The Navy craft hold the world record for helium-filled airships.  A photograph shows the interior of the huge hangar where the Akron and Macon were constructed.  Called the Goodyear Airdock, it was constructed in 1929 at an equivalent cost today of $26.4 million.  When it was built it was the largest structure in the world without interior supports.  It encompassed 364,000 square feet of space, an area equal to eight football fields placed side by side.

It is there that the Akron, shown here under construction, was built. The airship was 785 feet long and had a hull diameter of 133 feet and a height of 146 feet, six inches.  The skeleton was formed of a new lightweight alloy called “duraluminun 17.”  

Zeppelin and other rigid designs used a single keel at the lowest point of the hull circumference but the Akron boasted three keels, one running along the top of the hull and one on each side, 45 degrees up from the lower centerline. Each keel provided a walkway running almost the entire length of the ship. The strength of the main rings, the lower keels, and the fact that helium, instead of flammable hydrogen, was to be used, also allowed the designer to mount the engines inside the hull, improving streamlining. Goodyear was extraordinarily proud of the Akron issuing a postcard showing the airship protruding from its airlock.


The city of Akron, indeed all of Ohio, was proud of this flying behemoth.  A postcard depicts the ship flying over the skyline.  Akron has had many nicknames, one of which is "City of Invention”.  The third would include this airship.  She was the world’s first flying aircraft carrier, with the capacity for holding F9C Sparrowhawk fighter-reconnaissance planes in its belly.  Using a crude hooking system, the planes could be launched and recovered while the Akron was in flight.

Another photo showed the Akron floating over New York City in 1933.  It was powered by eight Maybach (German) in line engines hitched to two wooden propellers, each of which was two bladed.  The airship was capable the making 63 miles an hour cruising speed and a maximum speed of 79 miles an hour.  Its fuel capacity was 20,700 gallons weighting 126,000 pounds.  That gave the airship a range of 6,840 miles without refueling.  

The Akron’s first transcontinental flight in May 1932 was recognized with a special envelope marking the occasion.  Leaving from Lakehurst, it took more than 44 hours to reach San Diego, slightly faster than delivery by train.  The cover shown here gives no clue to what happened on its arrival. Since neither trained ground handlers nor specialized mooring equipment were present, the landing at Camp Kearny was a dicey proposition. By the time the crew started the descent, the helium gas had been warmed by sunlight, increasing lift. The mooring cable had to be cut to avert a catastrophic nose-stand by the airship which then floated upward. Most of the mooring crew—predominantly “boot camp” seamen—released their lines although four did not immediately let go.  Two of them plunged to their death, two others, although injured, were saved.

This was just a foretaste of what was to come.  On the night of April 3, 1933 the Akron was on a routine operation along the Atlantic Coast  with a rear admiral aboard when it encountered severe weather.  Heavy winds struck its sides, causing the airship to plunge toward the ocean.  A strong gust tore lower rudder cables away causing the nose of the vessel to pitch up and the tail down.  Upon striking the water the lower fin was torn away as the Akron broke up rapidly and sank in the wave-tossed Atlantic.  The crew had not been issued life jackets and end had come so quickly that life rafts could not be deployed.  The accident left 73 dead, the admiral among them, and only three survivors.  President Franklin Roosevelt called it “a national disaster.”  On Memorial Day 1933 the Navy Department issued a special “In Memoriam” cover.

The loss of the Akron marked the beginning of the end for the airship in the U.S. Navy.  When its sister dirigible Macon was damaged in a storm two years later and sank, the program ended.  This time, however, the crew had been issued life jackets and 70 of the 72 aboard were rescued.  Although today “Snoopy” may sail the Metlife blimp over the Superbowl, the use of manned airships for military purposes long has been over.

Other mementos of the Akron that may be of interest to collectors are paperweights and desk ornaments issued when the airship was still a matter of national pride.  Goodyear used a blob of its dualuminum 17 to fashion a replica of the Akron’s dock that completely fails to convey the immensity of the structure.  There also are other replicas of the giant balloon that come up for sale from time to time, two of them shown here.