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Zeppelin: A Biography

130 pages2 hours


IN his fiery, adventurous youth he joined the Union Army in our Civil War, and became vitally interested in aeronautics

AS a man he was known as the most fearless and audacious officer the Württemberg Army

AT fifty-two he retired and began the great adventure of his life—the conquest of the air

THEN, with magnificent courage, he rode over obstacle and failure to an achievement immortal in the history of flying

Originally published in 1931, this is a biography of Count von Zeppelin, the German general turned aircraft manufacturer who founded the Zeppelin airship company.

Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin (8 July 1838 - 8 March 1917), the scion of a noble family, was born in Konstanz, Grand Duchy of Baden (now part of Baden-Württemberg) in Germany. His father was Württemberg Minister and Hofmarschall Friedrich Jerôme Wilhelm Karl Graf von Zeppelin (1807-1886).

Count Zeppelin’s military career spanned more than three decades, beginning as an army officer in the army of Württemberg in 1855, seeing active service in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, and rising through the ranks to commander of the 19th Uhlans in Ulm and envoy of Württemberg in Berlin from 1882-1885. He retired from the army with the rank of Generalleutnant in 1891 at age 52. He was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross) of the Order of Distinguished Service of Württemberg.

His service as an official observer with the Union Army during the American Peninsular War led him to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota, where the German-born former Army balloonist John Steiner offered tethered flights; it was his first ascent in a balloon during this visit that is said to have been the inspiration of Count Zeppelin’s later interest in aeronautics.

He passed away in 1917 at the age of 78, before the end of World War I. The unfinished World War II German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin and two rigid airships were named after him.

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