Of Fire, Ice, Blimps, and Ships at the National Postal Museum

Facebook
Google+
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Instagram

Small museums can be wonderful places to learn about different perspectives. At the National Postal Museum, located right next to Union Station in Washington, D.C., visitors can begin to appreciate mail carriers a bit more fully. On a recent visit, I tossed packages into slots designated with the names of different cities on them. I clearly need more practice. I got to pretend to drive a postal truck (quite large!), and hand-cancelled postcards.

An old mail truck at the National Postal Museum. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

An old mail truck at the National Postal Museum. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Most interesting to me was the Fire & Ice exhibit, focusing on the Hindenburg airship and Titanic disasters. I have a personal connection to the Hindenburg, the blimp that exploded at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey back in 1937.

My grandfather, Joseph Edward Kearns, was a teenager at the time and earned $1 every time he helped pull the blimp down using ropes. He was there the day the dirigible exploded.  He was unharmed, but he, his sister, Mary Ellen, and my great-grandmother, Mary Meyer Kearns Basso, had known some of the crew members, who used to visit the Chat Away Inn where my great-grandmother worked.

I don’t know whether my grandfather earned his dollar the day the Hindenburg exploded. He didn’t talk much about the details of the tragedy. Years later, he became a postmaster in nearby Lakewood.

The Fire & Ice exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

The Fire & Ice exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

I learned from the exhibition at the postal museum that some mail survived the Hindenburg disaster, but none from the Titanic sinking did. I hadn’t really thought about other uses of either airships or cruise ships; apparently, mail was part of their cargo.

The Hindenburg blimp exploded in Lakehurst, NJ, in 1937. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

The Hindenburg blimp exploded in Lakehurst, NJ, in 1937. Photo credit: L. Tripoli

To learn more about Lakehurst, NJ, and about the Hindenburg, visit the Lakehurst Historical Society. It’s located in a tiny, old Catholic church in Lakehurst. My grandfather is buried in its graveyard.

But if you happen to be in DC, the National Postal Museum is a charming place to begin learning about one particular dirigible.

­—Lori Tripoli

 

~Advertisement~
Scholastic Teacher Store Paperback Specials ends 8/31/16
~Advertisement~

9 comments for “Of Fire, Ice, Blimps, and Ships at the National Postal Museum

  1. April 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Laurie,

    Your story about your family is very interesting. We will keep a copy of the posting in the museum archives.

    Thank you so much!

    Sandi Stark,
    Lakehurst Historical Society Museum

    • BashfulAdventurer
      April 29, 2013 at 5:32 am

      Thank you, Sandi! I will try to visit the museum the next time I am in the area.

      Sincerely,

      Lori Tripoli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *