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.
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.
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.
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.