In August of 1929, the 775-foot, hydrogen-filled LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin became the first lighter-than-air craft to circle the globe. The rigid airship traveled from Lakehurst (New Jersey) to Friedrichshafen (Germany) to Tokyo (Japan) to Los Angeles (California) and back to Lakehurst in about three weeks, from August 8 to August 29.
The Pacific crossing didn’t actually take the ship directly to Los Angeles, but to San Francisco first. The ship’s commander, Hugo Eckener, “deliberately timed his flight…to make a dramatic entrance through San Francisco’s Golden Gate with the sun setting behind the ship.” The dirigible made several passes over San Francisco on August 25 before continuing down the coast to L.A.
The scene must have made a big impression on the the Wong family of San Francisco, because a week later, on September 1, they welcomed a baby boy and named him Zeppelin Wai Wong.
Zeppelin Wai Wong went on to attend Stanford and become a successful attorney. In 1953, San Francisco journalist Herb Caen mentioned Zep in his book Don’t Call it Frisco:
One of San Francisco’s more oddly named citizens is a Stanford graduate named Zeppelin Wai Wong — and naturally, everybody wonders how come. Very simple, really. Zeppelin (or “Zep”) was born in San Francisco on September 1, 1929, while the German dirigible, Graf Zeppelin was droning overhead — and he thinks the strange name (his father’s idea) is O.K. “Could be worse,” he points out “Suppose it had been the Shenandoah?”
(The USS Shenandoah was a U.S. Navy airship that had crash landed in 1925.)
The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin remained in service until mid-1937, when it was grounded permanently following the Hindenburg disaster.
- Caen, Herb. Don’t Call it Frisco. New York: Doubleday, 1953.
- Graf Zeppelin History – Airships: The Hindenburg and other Zeppelins
- “Reunion Attracts 2,000.” St. Petersburg Times 19 Sept. 1960: 14-A.
Many moons ago, I wrote about Airlene. She was born in an airplane in 1929.
Many of the sources I consulted for that post explicitly stated that Airlene was the first baby born in an airplane. I hadn’t seen any contradictory evidence at the time, so I assumed this was true.
Just the other day, though, I discovered that a French baby had been born in an airplane in the summer of 1922 — seven years earlier.
The French baby was the son of Madame Georges Breyer of Lyon. She was staying at a seaside resort in Southern Italy when she went into labor. She chartered a plane northward to Naples, and gave birth 40 miles south of Naples and 6,000 feet over the Mediterranean.
She said she would name the baby Guynemer, in honor of famous French military aviator Georges Guynemer.
This news was printed in papers all over the U.S. for a day or two. Then…nada. No follow-up, no interviews, no extra details. I’ve had no luck tracking down the mom, the baby, or even the Breyer family of Lyon — at least not in any of the English-languages sources I’ve checked. (Anyone want to do a quick search of French or Italian sources for me?)
As far as I know, Airlene is still the first U.S. airplane baby. But it looks like Guynemer could be the world’s first airplane baby, if this story checks out.
I’ll let you know if/when I have any updates…
Source: “Boy Born in an Airplane 6000 Feet Above the Sea.” Providence News 1 Jul. 1922: 1.
From a short article printed in several newspapers in mid-1929:
This Anatolian city [Konya] wins the prize for “modernization” with the recent bestowal upon a boy of the name of “Railroad.” He was born on a train.
I wish they’d given the actual name–whatever the Turkish word for “railroad” is. (The internet is telling me the word is demiryolu.)
Source: “The Globe Trotter.” Evening Tribune 7 Jul. 1929: 6.
From a 1923 issue of the Boston Globe:
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sole of Newark N. J. named their baby after the cities they visited on their honeymoon. Francisco Washington Boston Newark Sole is the burden wished on the mite.
For those who traveled to multiple locales on their honeymoons: If you used this formula to come up with a baby name, what would the name be?
Source: “Odd Items From Everywhere.” Boston Globe 5 Dec. 1923: 24.
Here’s a bizarre tale for you.
Alfred Johnson of Chicago took his wife, Alice, to divorce court in 1943 after she’d had him arrested 12 different times over the course of their 24-year marriage.
The stories behind the arrests weren’t just recounted in court, but also published in several newspapers.
The first time his wife had him jailed, he told the court, was in 1919, a few months after their wedding.
He had given her $6 for a new dress, he said, but she refused to go on a vacation with him because she wanted a better dress.
“She ran out of the house and pretty soon the police came and took me off to jail,” Johnson said.
Here’s another arrest:
In 1922, Johnson and his wife argued over his bridge playing at a card party.
“Again I was arrested,” he told the court.
And, finally, the baby name arrest:
In 1925 they argued about their baby’s name.
“I was to name the boys and she was to name the girls,” he said. “I name our son Frank and got a letter from the Board of Health saying his name was Frank Robert. I asked her about it and landed in jail again.”
Too bad the articles didn’t offer Alice’s side of the story. Especially on the baby name arrest. (I wonder why she felt compelled to throw “Robert” in there…)
- “Alfred Objects to Wife’s Habit of Jailing Him.” Chicago Daily Tribune 28 May 1943: 2.
- “Dozen Arrests Annoy Husband.” Telegraph-Herald 28 May 1943: 2.
Image: caged by Dave Nakayama