A historic Pennsylvania metal forge that made the souvenir aluminum ashtrays for the “Millionaires Flight” of the Hindenburg on October 9, 1936 was destroyed by fire yesterday. Fortunately no-one was injured in the blaze, which destroyed the historic building.
In 1936 the Wendell August company was commissioned to create souvenir ashtrays for passengers on the famous flight. The sightseeing trip was co-sponsored by Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), which supplied hydrogen and diesel fuel to the Hindenburg, and each ashtray had a glass model of the zeppelin filled with the Esso diesel fuel used to power the ship’s four engines.
Hindenburg had a smoking room for passengers, despite being inflated with flammable hydrogen, so an ashtray was not an inappropriate souvenir. It is unlikely that passengers were allowed to use the fragile glass-and-diesel-fuel ashtrays in flight, however.
Passengers on the flight included Nelson Rockefeller, grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, Karl Lindemann, a director of the Hamburg-Amerika Line and an officer of Standard Oil, and Winthrop W. Aldrich, Chairman of the Chase National Bank. Other passengers included aviation pioneers like WWI ace and Eastern Airlines manager Eddie Rickenbacker, Pan American Airways founder Juan Trippe, and TWA president Jack Frye.[Read more about the Millionaires Flight.]
The Wendell August company has been in business in Grove City, Pennsylvania since 1932, and its building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Company president Will Knecht has announced his determination to rebuild as soon as possible, and we extend our best wishes to Mr. Knecht and all his employees at this difficult time.