Blimp-loving collector donates memorabilia to University of Akron

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s: Blimp over city. (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — An airship aficionado’s memorabilia collection documenting the history of lighter-than-air flight is headed to northeast Ohio — the home of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and the birthplace of its blimps.

The University of Akron is accepting 100 boxes of rare toys, books, photos and videos from New York City resident Alan Gross, who bills himself as “Airship Al.”

The school’s head of archival services, Vic Fleischer, told the Akron Beacon Journal that Gross collected “anything airship.”

The collection includes relics from the height of the airship age and miniature versions of the iconic blimps from Akron-based Goodyear.

Gross says his dirigible fascination began at age 13 during the 1964 New York World’s Fair when he watched a Goodyear blimp from the window of his apartment in Queens.

“It just fascinated me to see something so large floating overhead,” he said. “And when I saw a blimp up close, I thought ‘That’s going to be a part of me.'”

Gross runs a consulting company that caters to airship manufacturers and operators. He still lives in the same Queens apartment, which was eventually overwhelmed by his collection.

“I don’t have closets anymore,” he said. “I have airship storage.”

The university maintains archives that document the history of the region’s industries, including rubber and lighter-than-air flight. Part of Gross’s donation has already arrived on campus. More boxes are expected later this month.