As the largest, fastest, and most glamorous ships of their eras, Hindenburg and Titanic share many similarities. The human tragedy associated with each stunned the world . . . a shock that affects people to this day. Both offered travelers elegant accommodations, and both provided postal services. In each era, the public trusted modern technology to provide safety and speed. And as anniversaries of the disasters are marked in 2012—seventy-five years since Hindenburg burned and a century since Titanic sank—many questions remain unanswered.
The Zeppelin Company of Friedrichshafen, Germany, completed the 804-foot long LZ-129 Hindenburg in 1936. Financed in part by the Nazi regime, the rigid airship, designed to use non-flammable helium for lift, confirmed Germany’s technological prowess as Adolf Hitler prepared for war. The U.S. refused to sell helium to the Zeppelin Company, which instead used highly flammable hydrogen for Hindenburg’s lift. On May 6, 1937, carrying ninety-seven passengers and crew, Hindenburg burst into flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The disaster destroyed the ship in thirty-four seconds, ending the magnificent era of lighter-than-air commercial travel.
Between 1909 and 1911, Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Ireland, built the massive, 882-foot long Titanic for Britain’s White Star Line, owned by American J.P. Morgan. On April 10, 1912, the lavish Titanic left Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage. Bound for New York, the ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic late night April 14, and sank in fewer than three hours. Of its 2,229 passengers and crew, only 712 survived, predominantly women and children.
Smithsonian.com: "The Lost Map of the Hindenburg" »