Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Postcard: Zeppelin moored atop the Empire State Building


This Manhattan Post Card Publishing Company postcard from the 1930s shows a dirigible (aka rigid airship or Zeppelin) moored at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. Though the Zeppelin is quarter-mile above the ground, it remains an easy target for King Kong.

The pre-printed text on the back of the postcard states:
"THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY, rises 1250 feet, or nearly a quarter of a mile above Fifth avenue. It is 200 feet higher than any other building1 and 266 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It contains 63 acres of floor space and enough steel to load a train 11 miles long. A dirigible moored to a mast atop the Empire State, world's tallest building, would exert a greater pull than three locomotives."
The scene depicted on this postcard, however, never happened. In a 2010 article for The New York Times, Christopher Gray wrote:
[N]o airship ever docked there, and indeed the whole mooring mast concept was a bit of a stunt itself.

In late 1929, Alfred E. Smith, the leader of a group of investors erecting the Empire State Building, announced that they were increasing the height of the building to 1,250 feet from 1,050. Mr. Smith, a past governor of New York, denied that competition with the 1,046-foot-high Chrysler Building was a factor. “We are measuring its rise by principles of economic investment rather than spectacular standards,” he told The New York Times.

The extra 200 feet, it was announced, was to serve as a mooring mast for dirigibles so that they could dock in Midtown, rather than out in Lakehurst, N.J., the station used by the German Graf Zeppelin. Mr. Smith said that at the Empire State Building, airships like the Graf, almost 800 feet long, would “swing in the breeze and the passengers go down a gangplank”; seven minutes later they would be on the street.
(Sure, Mr. Smith. You just go right ahead and walk that gangplank, dangling 1,200-plus feet above the pavement, from the airship to the top of the Empire State Building. We'll be right behind you. Promise.)

For more on this impractical and terrifying idea, read the rest of Gray's article.

This postcard is another one that was mailed to Walter Homiak in Atlas, Pennsylvania. Previous cards were featured in February (the Woolworth Building) and in March (Siboney Hotel in Havana, Cuba).

This one was postmarked on March 19, 1937, at Times Square Station. The message, in pencil, states:
"Hello Wally: Well I finally got out to N.Y.C. and I'm making out swell. I'm working in a restaurant. It's not bad out here only if a few of you guys were out here with me. I'll go up to Manhattan C. and scout for you.2 Please send Harry Preston's address. Also what kind of power AC or DC do we have at home. Write to Gella's address.
Mello."

Footnotes
1. The Empire State Building held the title of World's Tallest Building from 1931 to 1970.
2. That might be a reference to Manhattan Center, but I'm not sure.

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