A Plaquette for David Schwartz
By Manfred Anson

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In 1932, when I was ten years old, the newspaper of the small Bavarian village in which I lived wrote that the Graf Zeppelin would fly over our town on a certain day of the month. Everyone of course, had seen pictures of this cigar shaped dirigible balloon, and now we would actually see it floating in the air over us. Almost all of the 4500 inhabitants gathered in the streets, on the walls and towers surrounding the town, to greet this wonderful invention and its master pilot Dr. Hugo Eckner when it appeared on the horizon and sailed towards our mediaeval town.

It was about noontime when the Zeppelin was almost in the center of the town. It blotted out the sun, and a great shadow fell across it, much wider than the actual width of the aircraft. It flew only a couple hundred meters above ground and many people ran into their houses fearing that it might perhaps fall into the streets and kill them all.

The monster hovered for a few minutes, turned around and flew off in the direction of Munich and I never saw it again. A few years later, I learned that a sister airship, the Hindenberg, crashed on landing in an. Obscure town in New Jersey called Lakehurst. Little did I know that one day, I would live in New Jersey a bit north of that airbase.

How could I have known then, that many years later, I would become a collector of medals of famous Jews or Jewish events as well as Jewish institutions, with a parallel interest in stamps.

About three years ago, I acquired two stamps issued in Hungary. One portrays a man named David Schwarz and a peculiar looking pencil shaped airship. The other, a recognizable portrait of both Schwarz and Count von Zeppelin with a familiar zeppelin aircraft in the background.

I confirmed that Schwarz was Jewish through the Encyclopedia Judaica, where he is named as the actual inventor of the first dirigible airship with a solid metallic frame.

For almost 100 years, balloonists had tried to create a gas filled vehicle which could be maneuvered in all directions and up and down, flying in all kinds of weather. It was fate that a Jewish timber merchant from Zagreb, Croatia, but born in Keszthely, Hungary, would take up the hobby of aeronautics and experiment with the construction of a rigid airship.

In the late 19th century, this idea was not a new one, and several inventors had similar conceptions in mind, amongst them a German Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin, who had recently returned from the Franco Prussian war. David Schwarz, born in either 1845 or 1850 or 1852 since accounts vary, was the first to use a metallic frame, with a gondola and engine hanging beneath it.

Aluminum had been discovered but was very expensive. A newly found process, recently perfected, enabled the cost to be considerably reduced, and with the addition of various alloys, made stronger. In his endeavor to get his invention literally "off the ground" Schwarz was fortunate to become acquainted with Carl Berg, owner of a metal factory in Westphalia, Germany. Berg was able to produce the metallic frame, and also to contribute to the finance of the project. Without the expertise and perseverances of Carl Berg and his factory, Schwarz might not have been able to construct his invention.

The idea of a steerable airship must have been on the mind of many great intellectuals and thinkers of that period. Another Hungarian, born at the other end of that country wrote in his diary on May 12th, 1896, on page 398 of the German edition:

"That great things do not need a firm foundation, the earth floats in the air therefore I can establish the Jewish State without a firm support and yet fortify it. The secret lays in the movement. I believe that somehow, somewhere, the steerable airship will be found, the weight will be overcome by the movement and not the ship but its movement has to be steered."

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