When the First World War broke out in 1914, no Zeppelins were initially used for civilian purposes, but were used extensively for military reconnaissance work, material transport and also for dropping bombs. An estimated 100 airships were lost in the war.
After the end of the war, Zeppelins were once again deployed for civilian purposes, including postal transport. However, the first built models LZ 120 “Bodensee” and LZ 126 had to be given to Italy and the USA as reparations.
The classic era of Zeppelin mail began following the ongoing expansion of the airship industry in 1928 with the deployment of the LZ 127 “Graf Zeppelin”. Travelling by airship was a costly affair at the time, comparable with a first-class ticket in modern times. Because of this, many Zeppelin enthusiasts made a point of sending their letters and postcards by Zeppelin, even if they could not afford to travel on the airship themselves. Up until 1937, the LZ 127 “Graf Zeppelin” and LZ 129 “Hindenburg” models transported many tonnes of post, especially to North and South America. Many consignments also came to Germany from abroad merely so that they could be sent on their travels with the Zeppelin. This “contract mail” came from all over Europe as well as from exotic climes such as the Dutch East Indies, Eritrea or Senegal and was a major factor contributing to Zeppelin financing. Measured in terms of weight, postal transport was still far more attractive than passenger transport.