15 Facts About the Hindenburg

LZ-129 Hindenburg, a rigid airship manufactured in Germany by the Zeppelin Company, catches fire as it comes in for a landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937.
LZ-129 Hindenburg, a rigid airship manufactured in Germany by the Zeppelin Company, catches fire as it comes in for a landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937.
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Rigid zeppelins used to carry the rich and well-to-do across the Atlantic Ocean in style. But after the Hindenburg disaster—in which a German airship caught fire and crashed in New Jersey on May 6, 1937—the industry went belly up. Here are a few things you might not know about the ill-fated flying machine.

1. The Hindenburg was built using metal from an airship that had exploded.

Construction on the 804-foot-long LZ-129 Hindenburg began in 1931. The Friedrichshafen, Germany-based Luftschiffbau Zeppelin Company purchased Duralumin from the remains of Britain's R-101 hydrogen airship, which had crashed in October 1930, and used the material (a light but hard alloy of aluminum, copper, and other metals) to make parts for the Hindenburg.

2. The Hindenburg was partially funded by the Nazis.

Hugo Eckener—the long-serving president of the company that manufactured the Hindenburg—had well-known disagreements with the Nazi Party. Still, when construction of the Hindenburg lagged due to the effects of the depression, he accepted money from the Nazis to fund its construction in 1934. It wouldn't be the Nazi regime's last contribution, either: An even bigger injection of funds would soon follow, which resulted in the company being split into two companies: the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin Company, responsible for building airships, and the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, responsible for operating them. The ship was completed in 1936.

3. The Hindenburg was named after a former German president.

The name was a tribute to Paul von Hindenburg, a distinguished general who became Germany’s second president during the Weimar Republic era and appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor in 1933. He died in 1934.

4. The Hindenburg was supposed to be filled with helium—but hydrogen was used instead.

Hydrogen-powered airships didn’t have the best safety record, so the Hindenburg’s designers planned to fill it with non-flammable helium gas. However, America had a corner on the helium market, as well as a law on the books declaring that “no helium gas shall be exported from the United States” without approval from the president and various cabinet officials. So German engineers had no choice but to pump the Hindenburg full of flammable hydrogen—a switch that had horrific consequences.

5. The Hindenburg made an appearance at the 1936 Olympics.

Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was behind the initial Nazi contribution to the Hindenburg's construction. According to Airships.net, Goebbels was "aware of the potential symbolic value of LZ-129 as a showcase for German strength and technology." After its completion, the ship was used to help promote Adolf Hitler’s interests. On August 1, 1936, the Hindenburg flew over the Reichssportfeld complex in Berlin to kick off that year’s Summer Olympic games. By then, swastika flags had been painted on the tail fins.

6. The Hindenburg made many trips across the Atlantic.

During the 1936 flight season, it finished 17 round-trip crossings of the ocean, and even set a new record that July by flying across the Atlantic—and back—in just five days, 19 hours, and 51 minutes. At the time, this was the fastest double-crossing of the Atlantic ever carried out.

7. The Hindenburg's fares weren't cheap.

Among the people who died in the Hindenburg disaster was American Burtis J. Dolan, who bought a one-way ticket on the ill-fated flight for 1000 Reichsmarks. During the Great Depression, that was the equivalent of roughly $450. Thanks to inflation, Dolan’s ticket would cost around $8000 today.

8. The Hindenburg flew over New York City in its final hours.

Thirty-six passengers boarded the Hindenburg in Frankfurt on May 3, 1937. The ship's ultimate destination was Lakehurst, New Jersey, which took them right over New York. One passenger would later remark that “in the mist the skyscrapers below us appeared like a board full of nails.” They also interrupted a baseball game.

8. The Hindenburg disaster unfolded in less than a minute.

At 7:25 p.m., around 180 feet above the ground, the Hindenburg suddenly caught fire. Within 40 seconds, the inferno stripped away the airship's fabric covering and the metal framework crashed down to Earth.

9. The death toll of the Hindenburg disaster was surprisingly low.

When the Hindenburg was incinerated, there were 97 passengers and crew on board. Sixty-two survived—including its captain Max Pruss and professional acrobat Joseph Spah (who escaped through a window). Most bystanders were likewise unscathed, although one ground worker was killed by the falling ship. In total, 36 people died.

10. What caused the Hindenburg to catch fire is a mystery.

Even now, scientists are unsure about what set the Hindenburg ablaze. According to a 1937 investigation, the trouble started when some of the ship’s hydrogen leaked into the electrically charged atmosphere. At some point, an “electrostatic discharge” ignited the gas, dooming the zeppelin. Conflicting eyewitness accounts and incomplete camera footage have only deepened the mystery.

11. A retired NASA scientist blamed the Hindenburg disaster on paint.

In the 1990s, Addison Bain put forth a theory that the Hindenburg was covered in paints which chemically resembled rocket fuel. He believed that this—and not the hydrogen containers—was the main culprit behind the raging fire. However, those skeptical of the theory think that if the paint had behaved like rocket fuel, the ship’s outer canvas would have burned much faster than it actually did [PDF]. (Bain also sought to restore hydrogen's good name and advocated the use of hydrogen as an aerospace fuel.)

12. Herb Morrison's voice is distorted on his famous recording recounting the Hindenburg disaster.

Herb Morrison was working as a reporter for a Chicago-based radio station when he witnessed the Hindenburg disaster firsthand. His narration of the tragedy was replayed across the country, becoming almost as famous as the event itself. But the recording of Morrison’s report—complete with the now-iconic line “Oh, the humanity!”—artificially distorted his voice, making it sound a lot higher than it really was.

13. The Hindenburg and the Titanic had many similarities.

Though they went down 25 years apart, both ships will be forever linked in the public mind thanks to their tragic and well-documented ends. Both were mail ships, both were luxurious, and both boasted the top technology of their day. And it turns out they had similar dimensions. The Titanic was lengthier, measuring about 882 feet long from bow to stern. But while that passenger ship was only 92.5 feet across at its widest point, the Hindenburg had the impressive width of 135 feet. When it came to maximum occupancy, there was no contest. The Hindenburg could only accommodate 72 passengers (at most), the Titanic had room for around 2500.

14. Werner G. Doehner, the Hindenburg disaster's last survivor, passed away on November 8, 2019.

The German-born Doehner was just 8 years old when he, his two siblings, and his mother and father boarded the Hindenburg. His father and sister were killed in the crash. Doehner would go on to become an engineer for General Electric; he died at age 90.

15. The Hindenburg was the largest craft to ever fly.

More than three times longer than a Boeing 747, the Hindenburg (and its sister ship, which never flew a regular passenger route) was the largest craft to fly. It had a top speed of 84 mph and a cruising speed of 78 mph.

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It


When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

11 Fascinating Facts About Tamagotchi

Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Chesnot/Getty Images News

They blooped and beeped and ate, played, and pooped, and, for ‘90s kids, the egg-shaped Tamagotchi toys were magic. They taught the responsibility of tending to a “pet,” even though their shrill sounds were annoying to parents and teachers and school administrators. Nearly-real funerals were held for expired Tamagotchi, and they’ve even been immortalized in a museum (of sorts). Here are 11 things you should know about the keychain toy that was once stashed in every kid’s backpack.

1. The idea for the Tamagotchi came from a female office worker at Bandai.

Aki Maita was a 30-year-old “office lady” at the Japanese toy company Bandai when inspiration struck. She wanted to create a pet for kids—one that wouldn't bark or meow, make a mess in the house, or lead to large vet bills, according to Culture Trip. Maita took her idea to Akihiro Yokoi, a toy designer at another company, and the duo came up with a name and backstory for their toy: Tamagotchis were aliens, and their egg served as protection from the Earth’s atmosphere. They gave prototype Tamagotchis to high school girls in Shibuya, and tweaked and honed the design of the toy based on their feedback.

2. The name Tamagotchi is a blend of two Japanese words.

The name Tamagotchi is a mashup between the Japanese words tamago and tomodachi, or egg and friend, according to Culture Trip. (Other sources have the name meaning "cute little egg" or "loveable egg.")

3. Tamagotchis were released in Japan in 1996.

A picture of a tamagotchi toy.
Tamagotchis came from a faraway planet called "Planet Tamagotchi."
Museum Rotterdam, Wikimedia Commons//CC BY-SA 3.0

Bandai released the Tamagotchi in Japan in November 1996. The tiny plastic keychain egg was equipped with a monochrome LCD screen that contained a “digital pet,” which hatched from an egg and grew quickly from there—one day for a Tamagotchi was equivalent to one year for a human. Their owners used three buttons to feed, discipline, play with, give medicine to, and clean up after their digital pet. It would make its demands known at all hours of the day through bloops and bleeps, and owners would have to feed it or bathe it or entertain it.

Owners that successfully raised their Tamagotchi to adulthood would get one of seven characters, depending on how they'd raised it; owners that were less attentive faced a sadder scenario. “Leave one unattended for a few hours and you'll return to find that it has pooped on the floor or, worse, died,” Wired wrote. The digital pets would eventually die of old age at around the 28-day mark, and owners could start fresh with a new Tamagotchi.

4. Tamagotchis were an immediate hit.

The toys were a huge success—4 million units were reportedly sold in Japan during their first four months on shelves. By 1997, Tamagotchis had made their way to the United States. They sold for $17.99, or around $29 in today's dollars. One (adult) reviewer noted that while he was "drawn in by [the Tamagotchi's] cleverness," after several days with the toy, "the thrill faded quickly. I'm betting the Tamagotchi will be the Pet Rock of the 1990s—overwhelmingly popular for a few months, and then abandoned in the fickle rush to some even cuter toy."

The toy was, in fact, overwhelmingly popular: By June 1997, 10 million of the toys had been shipped around the world. And according to a 2017 NME article, a whopping 82 million Tamagotchi had been sold since their release into the market in 1997.

5. Aki Maita and Akihiro Yokoi won an award for inventing the Tamagotchi.

In 1997, the duo won an Ig Nobel Prize in economics, a satiric prize that’s nonetheless presented by Nobel laureates at Harvard, for "diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets" by creating the Tamagotchi.

6. Tamagotchis weren't popular with teachers.

Some who grew up with Tamagotchi remember sneaking the toys into school in their book bags. The toys were eventually banned in some schools because they were too distracting and, in some cases, upsetting for students. In a 1997 Baltimore Sun article titled “The Tamagotchi Generation,” Andrew Ratner wrote that the principal at his son’s elementary school sent out a memo forbidding the toys “because some pupils got so despondent after their Tamagotchis died that they needed consoling, even care from the school nurse.”

7. One pet cemetery served as a burial ground for expired Tamagotchi.

Terry Squires set aside a small portion of his pet cemetery in southern England for dead Tamagotchi. He told CNN in 1998 that he had performed burials for Tamagotchi owners from Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, all of whom ostensibly shipped their dead by postal mail. CNN noted that "After the Tamagotchis are placed in their coffins, they are buried as mourners look on, their final resting places topped with flowers."

8. There were many copycat Tamagotchi.

The success of the Tamagotchi resulted in both spin-offs and copycat toys, leading PC Mag to dub the late ’90s “The Golden Age of Virtual Pets.” There was the Digimon, a Tamagotchi spin-off by Bandai that featured monsters and was marketed to boys. (There were also Tamagotchi video games.) And in 1997, Tiger Electronics launched Giga Pets, which featured real animals (and, later, dinosaurs and fictional pets from TV shows). According to PC Mag, Giga Pets were very popular in the United States but “never held the same mystique as the original Tamagotchi units.” Toymaker Playmates's Nano Pets were also a huge success, though PC Mag noted they were “some of the least satisfying to take care of."

9. Rare Tamagotchis can be worth a lot of money.

According to Business Insider, most vintage Tamagotchis won't fetch big bucks on the secondary market. (On eBay, most are priced at around $50.) The exception are rare editions like “Yasashii Blue” and “Tamagotchi Ocean,” which go for $300 to $450 on eBay. As Complex notes, "There were over 40 versions (lines) of Tamagotchi released, and each line featured a variety of colors and variations ... yours would have to be one of the rarest models to be worth the effort of resale."

10. A new generation of Tamagotchis were released in 2017 for the toy's 20th anniversary.

The 2017 re-release of the Tamagotchi in its packaging.
Bandai came to the aid of nostalgic '90s kids when it re-released a version of the original Tamagotchis for the toy's 20th anniversary.
Chesnot/Getty Images

In November 2017, Bandai released a 20th anniversary Tamagotchi that, according to a press release [PDF], was "a first-of-its-kind-anywhere exact replica of the original Tamagotchi handheld digital pet launched ... in 1996." However, as The Verge reported, the toys weren't an exact replica: "They're about half the size, the LCD display is square rather than rectangle, and those helpful icons on the top and bottom of the screen seem to be gone now." In 2019, new Tamagotchis were released; they were larger than the originals, featured full-color displays, and retailed for $60.

11. The original Tamagotchi’s sound has been immortalized in a virtual museum.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds is a website that seeks to immortalize the digital sounds that become extinct as we hurtle through the evolution of technology. “The crackle of a dial-up modem. The metallic clack of a 3.5-inch floppy slotting into a Macintosh disk drive. The squeal of the newborn Tamagotchi. They are vintage sounds that no oldies station is ever going to touch,” The Washington Post wrote in a 2012 profile of the museum. So, yes, the sound of that little Tamagotchi is forever preserved, should it someday, very sadly, cease to exist completely.