The Airship and Futurism: Utopian Visions of the Airship

Solar-powered aerial landing field.  Modern Mechanix magazine.  October, 1934.

Modern Mechanix magazine. October, 1934.

Airships have often served as the symbol of a brighter tomorrow.

Even before the first zeppelin was invented, airships featured prominently in utopian visions of the future. This 1898 poster advertised a musical comedy on the New York stage:

Musical theater poster.  1898.

Musical theater poster. 1898.

And this 1910 postcard from France illustrated “Life in the Year 2000″:

French postcard.  1910.

French postcard. 1910.

Mixing the Airship and the Airplane: The View from the 1930’s

Futurists of the early 20th Century often combined lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air technology, as in this urban skyscraper airport and solar-powered aerial landing field:

Popular Science magazine. November, 1939

Popular Science magazine. November, 1939

Modern Mechanix magazine. October, 1934.

Modern Mechanix magazine. October, 1934.

Goodyear and the Future of Zeppelin Travel

Sometimes futurist airship visions were promoted by companies which were actually involved in the lighter-than-air business.

For example, the Goodyear-Zeppelin company, which built the American airships Akron and Macon, and which had a financial interest in the promotion of the passenger dirigible, frequently offered alluring illustrations of future airship travel.

Goodyear president Paul Litchfield and publicist Hugh Allen included the following pictures in their 1945 book, WHY? Why has America no Rigid Airships?:

Sleeping cabin on Goodyear's proposed luxury airship. (Airships.net collection)

why-has-america-lounge-web-WM

These drawings from Hugh Allen’s The Story of the Airship (1931) imagined an Art Deco dining salon, promenade, and even a lounge with a fireplace.

story-of-airship-dining-promenade-web-WM

 

story-of-airship-lounge-web-WM

The Airship and the Soviet Future

Under the illusion that communism was the way of the future, Soviet propagandists loved images of modernity and enlisted the airship in their cause.

Soviet poster, 1931.  ("We Are Building a Fleet of Airships in the Name of Lenin." Azeri text)

Soviet poster, 1931. (“We Are Building a Fleet of Airships in the Name of Lenin.” Azeri text)

Unflyable Airship Fantasies

Sometimes illustrators got so carried away depicting lavish interiors that they neglected to leave room for much lifting gas, as in this illustration from The American Magazine.

The article described future airships to be built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Company, which would be “fitted up as sumptuously as a Palm Beach winter hotel”:

American Magazine.

The American Magazine. May, 1930.

This illustration of an atomic dirigible from a Soviet magazine in the 1960’s left no room for lifting gas at all:

Soviet Atomic Dirigible

Soviet Atomic Dirigible

The Iron Airship

Modern Mechanics.  July, 1931.

Modern Mechanics. July, 1931.

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