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Leviathans of Air

The main types of airship are non-rigid, semi-rigid, and rigid. Non-rigid airships, often called "blimps", rely on internal pressure to maintain the shape of the airship. Semi-rigid airships maintain the envelope shape by internal pressure but have a supporting structure. Rigid airships have an outer structural framework which maintains the shape and carries all structural loads, while the lifting gas is contained in internal gas bags or cells. Rigid airships were first flown by Count Zeppelin and the vast majority of rigid airships built were manufactured by the firm he founded. As a result, all rigid airships are sometimes called zeppelins.
In early dirigibles, the lifting gas used was hydrogen, due to its high lifting capacity and ready availability. Helium gas has almost the same lifting capacity and is not flammable, unlike hydrogen, but is rare and relatively expensive.
Airships were most commonly used before the 1940s, but their use decreased over time as their capabilities were surpassed by those of aeroplanes.
284 Media in collectionpage 1 of 3

R101 and cows

Description: British R101 airship at mooring tower. The vessel was 237 metres long...Date: c.1929..Our Catalogue Reference: AIR 5/919 ( http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?C... more

Photograph of the Rear Control Car of a Dirigible, ca. 1933

Original Caption: Photograph of the Rear Control Car of a Dirigible, ca. 1933..U.S. National Archives’ HMS Record Entry ID: NWL-16051..Creator: U.S. Congress. Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters... more

Le veritable navigateur aerien / L.J. Stoupy Bijou, invenit et delineavit ; Michon, scl.

Design drawing for an airship navigational system project by Stoupy Bijou consisting of five balloons fastened to a sixty foot mast, a rudder, two 12 foot long oars, and two polygonal vanes to control the rise ... more

L'intérieur et l'extérieur d'un bayair "Couronne de Charles X" / Pav Braun, professeur de langue allemande à l'école Royal polytechnique, a Paris, rue neuve des petits champa, VCo. 17.

Design drawing proposed by Pav Braun shows interior and exterior views of the Bayair airship "Crown of Charles X," which was to be propelled by 20 balloons inside an enclosure and carry 15 passengers. (Source: ... more

Histoire des ballons, et des diverses ascensions qui ont eu lieu jusqu'à ce jour

Broadside depicts two airship designs conceived by Ernst (Ernest) Pétin, incorporating four spherical balloons propelled by manually operated helical screws attached to a large flat surface, the lower part prov... more

Navigation aérienne, système de M. Henri Giffard

Broadside announcing Henri Giffard's first steam powered airship design in 1852. Includes a technical drawing of his design.

Aérostat dirigeable système Vaussin Chardanne, brevet ... Nouveaux procédés de direction aérienne présenté à lʹInstitut de France, 1852

Scaled design drawings for patent issued to Vaussin Chardanne in 1853 for an airship operated by means of six propellers and having accommodations for passengers on two levels. Airship proposal presented to the... more

Plateforme aérienne cerf-volant libre dirigeable, système Vaussin-Chardanne. Feiulle no. 1 / dressé et presenté ... le 19 mars 1853, Vaussin-Chardanne.

Scaled design drawing shows a system for navigating an airship using propellers. Includes plans of dirigible platform body and complete platform assembly, and identification key.

Navigation aérienne. Solution dʹun grand problème par lʹemploi des voiles mobiles ... Systéme Augte. Lanteigne, menuisier mʹecen., ... / dessiné par lʹauteur.

Scaled design drawings for a patent show Aug. Lanteigne's system of aerial navigation, which used a continuous belt of sails to achieve propulsion. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, LC staff, 1981-82.)

Plateforme aérienne, cerf-volant libre dirigeable, système Vaussin-Chardanne. Feuille no. 2 / dressé et presenté ... le 19 mars 1853, Vaussin-Chardanne.

Design drawing shows a system for powering an airship with manually operated propellers. Includes longitudinal views of dirigible platform assembly and identification key.

Navire aérien dirigeable. Systême J.B. Métivier, force ascensionnelle 90,000 kos.

Scaled design drawing for a patent submitted by J.B. Métivier shows two cross-sections for a fish shaped airship utilizing balloons, sails, bellows, and propellers to transport passengers. (Source: A.G. Renstro... more

Voiles mobile. Systém Ate. Lanteigne menuisier / [...] Mo[...], '58.

Design drawings for a system of airship navigation proposed by Aug. Lanteigne, utilizing a series of 16 balloons on a single keel. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, Library staff, 1981-82).

Le trans-ether, aéro-moteur de la navigation atmosphérique / F. Ducroz, breveté S.G. du Gt., 25, rue du Buloi ; Harent, lith.

Scaled design drawing for a patent of a steam paddle-wheel driven motor for dirigible navigation, designed by F. Ducroz of Boulogne, 1859. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, LC staff, 1981-82).

Salle de conférences ... Conférences experimentales sur la navigation aérienne par l'ingénieur Camille Vert, de la Drôme le plus léger que l'air par le poisson volant : le plus lourd que l'air par l'homme ailé ...

Broadside announcing a conference on flight designs by Camille Vert. Includes pictures of a lighter-than-air 'flying fish' airship and a heavier-than-air 'winged man' ornithopter.

Navire aérien, le poisson volant, inventé et exécuté par M. Camille Vert, ingénieur-mécanicien ... / Paris, Camille Vert, rue de la Pépinière, 86.

Broadside announcing the exhibit at the Palais de l'industrie, séances expérimentales in Paris of a fish-shaped, steam-powered airship designed by Camille Vert. Features design drawing of the airship, equipped ... more

Moteur hydrostatique & a base de tous liquides à mouvement perpetuel relatif, c'est-à-dire, soumis à la casse, à l'usure des pièces, à l'entretien de sa base & à la volanté de l'homme / Invention de J.B. Métivier, 1867, Paris.

Design drawings for a hydrostatic motor capable of up to 100,000 horse power, for use in air, sea and land transportation, invented by J.B. Metivier in 1867. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, LC staff, 1981-82).

Aérostat électrique a hélice conduit dans les airs / par M.M. Albert et Gaston Tissandier, le 8 octobre 1883.

Design drawings show several views of an electric powered airship designed by Albert and Gaston Tissandier, which made an ascension October 8, 1883 from Auteil, France. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, LC staff, 1981-82).

[Cures d'air dans la montagne] / A. Robida.

Drawing shows an airship "Cures d'air" supporting the "Pension Bellevue" for individuals requiring medical care and floating above a mountainous region. One of the artist's conceptions for his book on life in t... more

Eden-concert, enl'vez l'ballon revue de m.m. Hermil & Numès, 17 boulevard Sébastopol, musique nouvelle de Tar-Caen / / Ch. Levy.

French circus poster shows two performers in the basket of an airship navigated by a rudder and a propeller. The basket bears the date 1884.

A.F. Bergqvist - aerial vessel Patented Oct. 17, 1893.

Design drawing for a flying machine invented and patented by A.F. Bergqvist.

Langley Airship

Photograph shows the attempted flight of the aircraft the Langley Aerodrome, on October 7, 1903, which ended when it fell into the water upon launch. The aircraft was designed by Smithsonian Institution Secreta... more

The famous "California Arrow" airship starting with aeronaut Knabenshue in its first successful flight, World's Fair, St. Louis

Photograph shows Roy Knabenshue in airship, designed by Thomas S. Baldwin, in Oct. 1905.

Baldwin's latest airship returning from a flight over the City of Portland [Oregon], Lewis & Clark Centennial

Shows ticket booths and entrance to area containing Baldwin's captive balloon; his airship is seen approaching in background.

Auffahrt, Flug u. Ende des Zeppelin'schen Luftschiffes Modell 4

Three illustrations showing the fourth model zeppelin taking off at Manzell, on the morning of Aug. 4, and in flight; and wreck in Echterdingen, Germany.

The invasion of England / L.M. Glackens.

Illustration shows German soldiers and officers invading England by means of hot-air balloons and other types of airships; also shows German emperor William II dictating "Fall of Albion an epic poem by the Kais... more

The air-serpent / Frank A. Nankivell 1909.

Illustration shows a large winged-serpent wearing a friendly mask, frightening the passengers aboard an airship.

The consumer's only chance / Frank A. Nankivell.

Illustration shows a woman mooring an airship to the chimney on the roof of her home by the light of a full moon; on board the airship are "American Goods Bought in England" that are being smuggled into the U.S... more

The airship craze / L.M. Glackens.

Illustration shows a golf club driving a golf ball that is covered with insects; at the bottom is a ticket booth labeled "Conquest of the Air" where insects can purchase tickets for rides on golf balls.

A dirigible (1910)

Print shows dirigible in flight over clouds.

Airships are getting so dreadfully commonplace / Will Crawford.

Illustration shows a two panel cartoon showing on the left, pedestrians and people in and on top of buildings looking with amazement at an airplane flying over a city; and on the right, citizens no longer take ... more

British Naval airship

Photo shows the first British attempt to build a rigid airship. This naval dirigible was launched in 1911 and called the Mayfly (HMA-1). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2008; book by Guy Hartcup; and New York Times)

For the sunny South. An airship with a "Jim Crow" trailer

Caricature showing 3 people on airplane

Coastal airship

British Photographs of World War I