Posted on the KeelyNet BBS on October 29, 1991 as AERO1.ASC
We have been looking for tangible information on the Aero Club of California as it existed in the mid 1850's for years. In a discussion with one of our users, Mr. Jim Shaffer, he remembered that he had an article on that very subject and took the time to type it in and send it up. Thank you JIM!!! This EXCELLENT file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Jim Shaffer.
Fate magazine has been in existence for many years and covers a wide range of subjects, much like KeelyNet. If you might be interested in subscribing to this interesting journal, their mailing address, etc..is: FATE, PO BOX 64383, St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0383 Phone - 612-291-0383
from Fate, May 1973
Mystery Airships of the 1800's (Part 1 of 3)
Part One: "No form of dirigible or heavier-than-air machine was flying -- or could fly -- at this time." And yet... - By Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman
March 26, 1880 was a quiet Friday night in tiny Galisteo Junction, N. Mex. (now the town of Lamy). The train from nearby Santa Fe had come and gone and the railroad agent, his day's work finished, routinely locked up the depot and set out with a couple of friends for a short walk.
Suddenly they heard voices which seemed to be coming from the sky. The men looked up to see an object, "monstrous in size," rapidly approaching from the west, flying so low that elegantly-drawn characters could be discerned on the outside of the peculiar vehicle. Inside, the occupants, who numbered 10 or so and looked like ordinary human beings, were laughing and shouting in an unfamiliar language and the men on the ground also heard music coming from the craft. The craft itself was "fish-shaped" -- like a cigar with a tail -- and it was driven by a huge "fan" or propeller.
As it passed overhead one of the occupants tossed some objects from the car. The depot agent and his friends recovered one item almost immediately, a beautiful flower with a slip of fine silk-like paper containing characters which reminded the men of designs they had seen on Japanese chests which held tea. Soon thereafter the aerial machine ascended and sailed away toward the east at high speed. The next morning searchers found a cup -- one of the items the witnesses had seen thrown out of the craft but had been unable to locate in the darkness.
"It is of very peculiar workmanship," the _Santa Fe Daily New Mexican_ reported, "entirely different to anything used in this country." The depot agent took the cup and the flower and put them on display. Before the day was over, however, this physical evidence of the passage of the early unidentified object had vanished.
In the evening a mysterious gentleman identified only as a "collector of curiosities" appeared in town, examined the finds, suggested they were Asiatic in origin and offered such a large sum of money for them that the agent had no choice but to accept. The "collector" scooped up his purchases and never was seen again.
We found more on this interesting case in a doctoral dissertation by Mr. T. E. Bullard, published in 1982 under the name of "Mysteries in the Eye of the Beholder." Chaper X -
Loose in an Airship - The Age of Phantom Dirigibles and Ghost Airplanes, 1880-1946. Page 205
"Several precocious flying machines sailed the skies during 1880. In late March several citizens of the unlikely place of Galisteo Junction, New Mexico heard voices overheard and saw a fish-shaped balloon driven by a fan-like apparatus. A cup and several other artifacts fell from the ship as it passed, but the next day a collector of curiosities, a man unknown in town, appeared and paid a large sum of money for the items.
The story ends on this note of mystery, BUT THE FOLLOWING WEEK another installment CLARIFIED THESE STRANGE PROCEEDINGS.
A party of tourists which included a wealthy young Chinaman stopped in the vicinity and found the stranger engaged in archaeological work. The young man grew excited on seeing the articles dropped from the airship, because among among them was a note in his fiancee's hand, and he explained that CHINESE EXPERIMENTS IN FLYING HAD AT LAST SUCCEEDED, meaning, the airship which crossed the skies of Galisteo Junction was THE FIRST FLIGHT OF a CHINA-TO-AMERICA airline.
Of course the story of aviation does not begin on December 17, 1903, the date of Orville Wright's 12-second aerial hop at Kitty Hawk. Long before that scientists and inventors had struggled to unlock the secrets of powered flight and to build what an 1897 issue of Scientific American called the "true flying machine; that is, one which is hundreds of times heavier than the air upon which it rests, (and flies) by reason of its dynamic impact, and not by the aid of any balloon or gasbag whatsoever."
But nothing in the early history of flight tells us what a huge airborne cigar was doing over New Mexico in 1880, especially as it "appeared to be entirely under the control of the occupants and... guided by a large fan-like apparatus," and also could ascend with startling speed. Its "monstrous size" and its propeller clearly indicate it was heavier than air, but such a flying machine didn't then exist according to British authority Charles H. Gibbs-Smith: "Speaking as an aeronautical historian who specializes in the periods before 1910,
I can say with certainty that the only airborne vehicles, carrying passengers, which could possibly have been seen anywhere in North America... were free-flying spherical balloons, and it is highly unlikely for these to be mistaken for anything else. No form of dirigible (i.e., a gasbag propelled by an airscrew) or heavier- than-air flying machine was flying -- or indeed *could* fly -- at this time in America."
Nevertheless, mysterious "airships" were seen in many parts of the world in the last half of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th. And plans for the construction of such craft were not unknown.
In 1848 gold fever seized America. On January 24 a workman discovered the precious metal in Sutter's millrace in California's Sacramento Valley. Within weeks the entire Pacific coast knew about it and a few months later "gold" was on the tongue of every easterner who ever dreamed of easy fortune.
Getting to those goldfields, however, was a problem, for the inland parts of the young nation were largely unsettled. A unique solution -- air travel -- came from "R. Porter & Company," a firm which listed its address as Room 40 of the Sun Building in New York City. In the latter part of 1848 the company distributed an advertising flyer in the eastern United States which promised more than it ever delivered.
Touting "THE BEST ROUTE TO THE CALIFORNIA GOLD!" the flyer read in part that the company was "making active progress in the construction of an 'Aerial Transport' for the express purpose of carrying passengers between New York and California.
"It is expected to put this machine in operation about the first of April, 1849, and the transport is expected to make a trip to the gold region and back in seven days..."
On the flyer the "aerial locomotive" is illustrated -- a huge cigar-shaped device, identified as a "gasbag," with a tail. Under it, attached with "sturdy material arrows can't puncture," is a similarly-shaped car with windows in its midsection.
"Snug gondola with benches for 50 or more passengers," the caption reads. From the top of the gondola stretches a long pipe which is identified as "a steam engine for controlled propulsion through sunny skies at 60 miles the hour."
Except for this pipe, entrepreneur Porter's vessel is almost a dead ringer for the type of "UFO" widely reported in the late 1800's and early 1900's which came to be called "the airship," although obviously there had to be more than one of them and they did not all look alike. But in the advertisement of an obscure company lie the first hints of a bizarre mystery which is staggering in its implications. *
* [We do not pretend to "solve" this mystery. What we offer instead are possibilities suggested by a wide range of often conflicting evidence complicated by the distance in time separating us from the events described (which makes firsthand investigation impossible in all but rare instances).]
During the 1850's mysterious "airships" regularly crossed the skies of Germany and just before that, probably in the year 1848, an enigmatic young German named C. A. A. Dellschau immigrated to the United States.
Dellschau's own testimony places him in Sonora, a California mining town, in the 1850's. Where he might have been in the decades after that is unknown. We do know, however, that about the turn of the century he married a widow and took up residence in Houston, Tex., where he lived in virtual seclusion. He had no friends; by all accounts his quarrelsome disposition kept everyone at a distance.
Dismissed as an eccentric by the few who knew him Dellschau devoted hours to the compilation of a series of scrapbooks filled with clippings, drawings and cryptic notations. He died in 1924 at the age of 92.
Were it not for a chance discovery many years later Dellschau's life would have gone unnoticed. But one day in May 1969 a UFOlogist named P. G. Navarro happened to stroll past an aviation exhibit at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Two large scrapbooks (Dellschau's) caught his eye and he stopped to take a closer look.
* [In telephone conversations and by correspondence, Navarro himself has provided us with this information.]
He found that the scrapbooks contained old news stories and articles about attempts of various inventors to construct heavier-than-air flying machines. But these were not nearly so interesting as Dellschau's drawings of strange-looking, cumbersome vessels which he claimed *actually had been flown at one time*.
Navarro, his curiosity aroused, sought more of the scrapbooks and over a period of time acquired 10 more -- from such places as a junk shop in Houston and from a woman art collector who had been interested in Dellschau's strange drawings. Navarro even talked with Dellschau's stepdaughter, then an old woman. Finally he set out to makes sense of Dellschau's notes which had been penned in English, German and code. When he had finished he had reconstructed a incredible story.
One thing was obvious: Dellschau was of two minds about what he was doing. On one hand he wanted his "secrets" known; on the other he seemed afraid to speak directly. So he compromised and wrote in a fashion aimed to discourage all but the most determined investigator -- and even so his writings in the main only add to the mystery.
He was writing for an audience -- if not one in his own day, one in some future period. He addressed potential readers thus: "You will... Wonder Weaver... you will unriddle these writings. They are my stock of open knowledge. They... will end like all the others... with good intentions but too weak-willed to assign and put to work."
From the notes Navarro learned that in the 1850's Dellschau and a group of associates, about 60 in all, gathered in Sonora, Calif., where they formed an "Aero Club" and constructed and flew heavier- than-air vehicles. They worked in an open field near Columbia, a small town near Sonora. (Today an airstrip covers the field, the only area in the predominantly hilly region where planes can take off and land safely.)
The club worked in secrecy and its members were not permitted to talk about their activities or to use the aircraft for their own purposes. One member who threatened to take his machine to the public in the hope of making a fortune died in an aerial explosion -- the victim, Dellschau hints, of murder.
Another, a "high educated mechanic" identified as Gustav Freyer, was called to account by the club for withholding new information. Apparently this was no ordinary social group.
The "Aero Club" was a branch of a larger secret society whose initials Dellschau gives as "NYMZA." He says little about this society except to observe that in 1858 it was headed by a George Newell in Sonora.
Otherwise he alludes to orders from unnamed superiors who were overseeing the club's activities. These were not governmental authorities, for Dellschau writes that an official who somehow learned of their work once approached club members and tried to persuade them to sell their inventions for use as weapons of war. The unnamed superiors instructed the club to refuse the offer.
The club had a number of aircraft at its disposal, including among others August Schoetler's Aero Dora, Robert Nixon's Aero Rondo and George Newell's Aero Newell. However, from Dellschau's drawings it is hard to believe that anything resembling these machines ever could have flown. Navarro remarks, "The heavy body of the machines seems to be radically out of proportion to the gasbag or balloon which is supposed to lift the contraption. Considering the large amount of gas (usually hydrogen or helium) that is required to lift one of today's dirigibles or even a small blimp, it is inconceivable that the small quantity of gas used in Dellschau's airship would be sufficient to lift it."
But this wasn't ordinary gas. According to Dellschau it was a substance called "NB" which had the capacity to "negate weight." Incredible as it may seem he is talking about antigravity.
Dellschau's notes have a curiously pessimistic tone. One strange paragraph reads, "We are all together in our graves. We get together in my house. We eat and drink and are joyful. We do mental work, but everybody is forlorn, as they feel they are fighting a losing battle. But little likelihood is there that fate shall bring forth the right man."
Dellschau wrote of the human race -- and even the planet Earth -- as if he stood apart from it. One peculiar paragraph of his oddly archaic German reads: "Your Christian love reaches for the Wanderplace, and wanders away from Earth. Planets there are enough where Christian love shall be as we say so nicely in the Book Selag."
A drawing elsewhere shows the figure of a devil opening a crack in the fabric of the sky above one of the "Aeros." The overall impression conveyed by his writings is that Dellschau was a man who knew secrets that would render him forever an outsider, isolated from the community of mankind. Who was he? A spinner of tall tales? But to what end? If he is only that why did he spend years compiling the scrapbooks - devoting most of his waking hours to the task - on the slight chance that one day far in the future, long after his death, someone might be taken in?
On November 1, 1896, the _Detroit Free Press_ reported that in the near future a New York inventor would construct and fly an "aerial torpedo boat." And on November 17 the Sacramento Bee_ reprinted a telegram the newspaper had received from a New York man who said he and some friends would board an airship of his invention and fly it to California. The trip, he said, would take no more than two days. That very night all hell broke loose and the Great Airship Scare of 1896-97 was off and running. The next day the _Bee_ led off a long article with this paragraph: "Last evening between the hours of six and seven o'clock, in the year of our Lord eighteen hudred and ninety-six, a most startling exhibition was seen in the sky in this city of Sacramento.
People standing on the sidewalks at certain points in the city between the hours stated, saw coming through the sky over the housetops, what appeared to them to be merely an electric arc lamp propelled by some mysterious force. It came out of the east and sailed unevenly toward the southwest, dropping now nearer to the earth, and now suddenly rising into the air again as if the force that was whirling it through space was sensible of the dangers of collision with objects upon the earth..."
Hundreds of persons saw it. Those who got the closest look said the object was huge and cigar-shaped and had four large wings attached to an aluminum body. Some insisted they heard voices and raucous laughter emanating from the ship. A man identified as R. L. Lowry and a companion allegedly saw four men pushing the craft along the ground by its wheels. Lowry's friends asked them where they were going. "To San Francisco," they replied. "We hope to be there by midnight."
One J. H. Vogel, who was in the vicinity, confirmed the story and added that the vessel was "egg-shaped." The next afternoon an airship passed over Oak Park, Calif., leaving a trail of smoke and soon San Francisco, Oakland and other cities and town in the north-central part of California had their own stories in all the newspapers.
Several persons now stepped forward to tell of earlier sightings. One was a fruit rancher near Bowman, Placer County, who said he and members of his family had watched an airship fly by at 100 miles an hour in late October. Even more remarkable was the statement of a man who claimed that in August he and fellow hunters had tracked a wounded deer across Tamalpais Mountain until they came to a clearing where six men were working on an airship.
The most baffling part of the whole flap, which lasted well into December 1896, was the role of "E. H. Benjamin," a dentist whose name the newspapers always enclosed in quotation marks, as if they had reason to doubt his identity. It was either Benjamin or his uncle who that November approached George D. Collins, a San Francisco lawyer, and asked him to represent his interests in the patenting of an airship. He told the incredulous Collins that he had come from Maine to California seven years before in order to conduct his experiments without danger of interruption.
Collins told reporters that his wealthy client (whom he never identified) did his work near Oroville where Collins himself had viewed the invention -- an enormous construction 150 feet long. "It is built on the aeroplane system and has two canvas wings 18 feet wide and rudder shaped like a bird's tail," the attorney said. "I saw the thing ascend about 90 feet under perfect control."
On November 17, Collins went on, the airship had flown the 60 miles between Oroville and Sacramento in 45 minutes. This was not the first flight the inventor had made. For two weeks he had been flying in attempts to perfect the craft's navigational apparatus.
This led to the story in the _Sacramento Bee_ for November 23, datelined Oroville: "The rumor that the airship which is alleged to have passed over Sacramento was constructed near this town seems to have a grain of truth in it. The parties who could give information if they would are extremely reticent. They give evasive answers or assert they know absolutely nothing about it.
"Not a single person that saw or knew of an airship being constructed near here can be found and yet there is a rumor that some man has been experimenting with different kinds of gas and testing those which are lighter than air. The experiments were made some miles east of the town and no one is able to give any names of the parties, who are evidently strangers and seeking to avoid publicity."
The _San Francisco Call_ established that "Benjamin," a native of Carmel, Me., had been seen in the Orville area visiting a wealthy uncle and confiding to friends that he had invented something which would "revolutionize the world."
Several days into the controversy, the inventor dispensed with the services of lawyer Collins because he was talking too much. W. H. H. Hart, a former state attorney general and a highly respected man, took over Collins' job. In subsequent newspaper interviews Hart revealed that *two* airships existed, one in the east and the other in California. "I have been concerned in the eastern invention for some time personally," he said. "The idea is to consolidate both interests."
The western craft would be used as a weapon of war. "From what I have seen of it," Hart said, "I have not the least doubt that it will carry four men and 1,000 pounds of dynamite. I am quite convinced that two or three men could destroy the city of Havana in 48 hours."
Hart thus represented both airship inventors, one in California and one in New Jersey. The former had Hart say, "...if the Cubans would give him $10 million he would wipe out the Spanish stronghold." This was not the last time airships and Cuba* would be mentioned in the same breath, as we shall see.
* [In this period the then-new "yellow journalism" was keeping American public opinion aroused over Cuba's desire for independence. After the Cuban insurection of 1895, public sentiment was running high against Spain and the mysterious destruction of the U. S. S. Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, triggered the Spanish-American war.]
Early in December 1896 a stranger appeared at a business establishment in Fresno, Calif., and inquired for a George Jennings. Covered with dust, the man looked as if he had traveled a long distance. When Jennings stepped out of a back room he greeted the visitor like an old friend. The two men engaged in whispered conversation and the persons standing nearby were nonplussed to overhear the word "airship" spoken more than once.
Later Jennings talked freely to a reporter for the _Fresno Semi-Weekly Expositor_, balking only at giving his friends' name. "It is true the airship is in Fresno County," he said. "Just where I do not know myself. It is also true that the man who was in here a short time ago is one of the inventors. He told me the trip to this country was involuntary upon the part of the men in the airship.
In other words the machine came itself and they couldn't stop it.(I was told) that they were flying, as usual, around Contra Costa County hills and rose to a height of about 1,000 feet. Suddenly the airship struck a current of air and refused to answer to its steering gear. It was borne rapidly southward against all efforts to change its course until suddenly the current of air seemed to lessen and the machine once more became manageable. The men aboard at once descended and flew about looking for a hiding place, which they at length found."
Jennings said he was sure that individuals in nearby Watertown and Selma must have observed the craft as it limped through the county in search of a "hiding place." Sure enough, the day before his encounter with the aeronaut, the _San Francisco Call_ had published a letter from five Watertown men who said they had seen an enormous airship nearly collide with a cornice on the city's post office building the evening of November 20. The craft had an "intensely brilliant" light and the witnesses could see human forms aboard.
The evening of December 5 Selma citizens were treated to the unnerving spectacle of a low-flying brilliantly-illuminated object sailing rapidly toward the southeast. "The character of the witnesses is such as to leave no doubt that they saw just what they described," the Selma Irrigator editorialized.
After the first week of December the airships seemed to have disappeared, the "inventors" were heard from no more and everything returned to normal -- but not for long. The incredible part was yet to come.
We are looking into the Dellschau manuscripts and further researches on this mysterious N.B. gas. From the work of Walter Russell and his development of the Octave Periodic Progression of elements, there would appear to be somewhere on the order of 26 elements BELOW HYDROGEN. This is TOTALLY CONTRARY to any modern understanding of chemistry.
As we understand it, the N.B. gas had incredible lifting power (not anti-gravity per se.). An apt analogy would be that one could fill a basketball with the N.B. gas, hold it in your arms and be carried off into the upper stratosphere. When such an understanding is applied to the majority of cases of the airships, it is seen how they are identical to ships on water or submarines underwater. A simple change in ballast would determine the height to which the airship would rise and remain. Subject of course to wind.
When perusing the many fascinating reports from this era, we note several describing winged men flying through the air. Some have the equivalent of a backpack for thrust, some simply the wings. N.B. could very well stand for Neutral Buoyancy. SHADES OF THE ROCKETEER!!!
Page 205 of Bullards book,
On July 28th, around 6 to 7 AM?, Two Louisville, Kentucky men saw an object in the distance which drew nearer and resolved into the appearance of a man surrounded by machinery. (Note no gasbag or canopy supported by one)
If the man slacked his efforts (he was peddling) the machine dropped, but if he once again worked the treadles (peddles) and wings HE ROSE AGAIN; but the machine seemed under perfect control and executed a turn over the city.
(Remember when the comedian Gallagher apparently built and flew a bicycle type device suspended from a small dirigible.)
Page 206 of Bullards book,
In September an object like a black-clad man WITH BAT'S WINGS AND FROGS LEGS FLAPPED over Coney Island.
Can we not here clearly see that the use of N.B. gas could so balance or completely cancel one's weight that flying in air would be analogous to swimming in water? Is this not worth pursuing? It would turn our concept of air travel completely upside down.
Ninety percent of the problem with air travel is the extra power required to sustain lift. Propulsion is a piece of cake in comparision. Imagine airships or flying suits literally "floating" like boats on water..........
Yet another story about a more recent flying man, reported back in 1997, since this file was first posted in 1991 and appended in this update;
A civilian friend and his wife were living on a small island with other civilian families. The island had a paved road that ran completely around it next to the beach. My friends wife and one of her friends would often ride their bicycles around the island for excercise.
One day, they were about half way round the island when they stopped for a breather and to enjoy the seabreeze and to get a drink of water. While talking they happened to notice a glint up in the air, when they looked up, they saw a man wearing a silver suit, hovering in the air. There was no noise, no obvious equipment and the man was simply hanging in the sky looking over the island, apparently oblivious that the women has spotted him.
They remained very quiet so as not to attract attention, standing there is awe of this flyer. After a few minutes, he spun slowly in the air, to face towards the ocean, then flew off at increasing speed at about the same height. The women were shocked and informed each of their husbands independently on their arrival home that evening. The stories jibed and the women swore to the truth of it. It could have been a military test or some spy operation but no further information has ever been discovered about who has such marvelous technology as a flying suit.