German Dirigible “Clouth” – Wills’s Aviation #21

History Behind The Card: German Dirigible “Clouth”
Card #21 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910


  • Albertus Clouth, b: December 18, 1838 in Cologne, Germany; d: September 7, 1910 in Cologne Germany.

Not much information about the dirigible or about Clouth’s involvement in aviation  is readily available at the time of this posting—so help is appreciated.

According to the January 23, 1909 edition of Flight Magazine:

Messrs. Clouth, manufactures of rubber fabric at Cologne, have in hand the construction of an airship of the semi-rigid type, which, it is stated, has already been sold. The trials are expected to take place in the spring under the control of M. Richard Clouth, a son of the Director.  

Clouth's Clouth Dirigible in 1909.

Clouth’s Clouth Dirigible in 1909.

Repeating from the back of the Wills’s #21 card: the ‘Clouth’ was built by the summer of 1909, resembling the Parseval-type of dirigible (see Wills’s card #15) also having a similar larger rudder and fin forward and the low hung car which is much larger than the Parseval models.

The Clouth airship was built with the keel-girder style, with girders consisting of articulated wooden struts that were inserted in the bottom of the hull. Trim controlled by lifting planes.

Taken from the 1917 D’Orcy’s Airship Manual, Clouth’s Clouth dirigible specifications:

  • 42-meters long;
  • gondola of 8.3-meters;
  • balloon volume 1,720;
  • Speed is 35 kph;
  • Engine: one Buchet with 40 horsepower
  • Screws: twin

This first dirigible was rebuilt after a few air trials.

Reverse of Wills's Cigarettes Card 1910 Aviation series card # 21.

Reverse of Wills’s Cigarettes Card 1910 Aviation series card # 21.

According to Wills’s it was a popular and successful design with several more contemplated though by the release of the card set in 1910, it was still the only one of its kind in existence. Citing the lack of information available, it may not have been as successful a dirigible as Wills’s believed.

The first and only Clouth dirigible was slightly redesigned with a stronger powerplant.

Clouth revised specifications from D’Orcy’s Airship Manual:

  • Length: 42-meters;
  • Gondola: 8.5-meters;
  • Balloon volume: 1,850-;
  • Speed: 38 kph;
  • Engine: One Adler motor providing 50 horsepower;
  • Screws: twin.

During tests, it’s best performance was traveling from Cologne, Germany to Brussels, Belgium – a distance of 150-kilometers in two hours.

The revamped Clouth dirigible was dismantled in 1912, when the Clouth-Luftschiffbau (Clouth Airship Construction) company merged with the Luft-Fahrzeug Gesellschaft of Berlin, leaving the rubber manufacturing company alone.

As for the Clouth name… Franz Clouth was a German businessman, who was a pioneer in rubber processing.

It is possible that Clouth may have provided the rubber for the dirigible’s envelope and ballonet, and so had his name attached to the dirigible project, or… just as likely, he may have ponied up the money to help Germany become better involved in the aviation race.

Clouth was born as the son of printing press owner Wilhelm Clouth and Anna Maria Katharina. He worked as a representative for rubber products in Germany, and in 1868 started up his Rheinische Gummiwarenfabrik Franz Clouth firm, producing rubber goods, becoming one of the first to utilize the sap from the Gutta-percha trees, that are known for the rigid natural latex it produces.

The company worked with cable manufacturer Felten & Guilleaume, and Clouth helped form several companies with them to produce underwater cables.

Clouth was also politically-active in Germany’s colonial policy but was also active as a community leader in Köln-Longerich and Cologne-Nippes.

In 1899, Clouth’s company provided rubber covering material for the zeppelin airship LZ1 being built by Germany’s Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. This helped create within Clouth an enthusiasm for aviation, with the company soon becoming involved in the construction of hot-air balloons before finally, in 1909, Clouth began work on a private dirigible airship – the one in the Wills’s card.

But… after this date – perhaps because he died in 1910 at the age of 71 – I can assume that the company’s involvement in constructing dirigibles ended, but it more than likely continued to supply rubber fabric for the aviation community before turning its efforts into creating rubber tires for the automobile industry.

I do know that in 1942, the Clouth manufacturing facility was bombed in 1942 – targeted by the Allies as it was producing tires, tubes and other materials for Nazi Germany’s war efforts.

The company existed until 1997, when it was absorbed due to loses into the Hanover, Germany-based Continental AG, a leading German automotive manufacturing company specializing in tires, brake systems, automotive safety, powertrain and chassis components, tachographs, and other parts for the automotive and transportation industries.

Continental is currently the fourth-largest manufacturer or tires in the world.

Although Clouth died in his factory near Villa, there is a street in Cologne-Nippes named Franz-Clouth Street, so designated in 1915.

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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4 Responses to German Dirigible “Clouth” – Wills’s Aviation #21

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