San Francisco baby named for Graf Zeppelin

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 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.


Image: Zeppelin LZ 127 by Grombo under CC BY-SA 3.0.

5 thoughts on “San Francisco baby named for Graf Zeppelin

  1. Zeppelin is my brother..what a wonderful article..yes..Herb Caen
    wrote about Zep several times.

    thanks for this remembrance. I’m going to send it to Zep.
    In fact there is a Zep Chow, named after my brother. and
    it was heard that he hated his name..
    Sorry to hear that. Zeppelin certainly gained prominence as
    a lawyer with his name

  2. Just discovered another interesting little fact.

    According the 1995 Journal of Proceedings put out by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, June 16 of that year was Zeppelin Wong Day:

    Resolution commending Zeppelin Wong for his contributions to the City and proclaiming June 16, 1995 Zeppelin Wong Day.

  3. According to the 1930 Census, at least two more 1929 babies were named Zeppelin:

    • Zeppelin Chow, boy, born in California to Chan and Lum Chow. He had siblings named George, Lilly, Minnie, Goldie, Anne, John, Johnson, Lindberg and Hoover.
    • Graf Zeppelin Zagursky, girl, born in Pennsylvania to Stanley and Augusta Zagursky. She had siblings named Olga, Peter, Francis, Antonia and Paul. (On the 1940 Census, she’s listed as “Grafie.”)

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