The Airship Wave of the 1890s, The Sonora Aero Club, and The Apotheosis of Human Creativity
Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.
Readers/visitors here know (or should) about the Airship sightings of the mid-1890s in The United States.
Most also know something about the odd, maybe fictive Sonora Aero Club of California, which I referenced in my earlier piece on the Airship wave.
Let me make clear that I am not advocating the idea that the Sonora Aero Club was the progenitor of the 1896 or other Airship sightings that have been recounted in UFO lore.
The possibility is there – possibilities lying everywhere – but that’s not my point here.
In my previous outing about the Airship sightings, I tried to make clear that the excitable mind-set(s) of the 18th and 19th century balloonists could account for some creative ballooning in the 1800s that explain the Airship sightings in the literature, some of them anyway.
First, let me sum up what I know or think about the Sonora Aero Club, that I’ve referenced early on here, at this blog and others, which a Google search will provide access to.
But a pithy source, recently read by me, comes from David Richie’s UFO book [ibid], Pages 192-193, quoted and paraphrased:
The Sonora Aero Club was manifest in the 1800s in and around Sonora, California, known mostly from the writings of C.A.A. Dellschau, pictured here:
Photo provided by Jose Antonio Caravaca
Dellschau wrote about the Club and offered exotic drawings of the alleged aircraft developed by its 60 members (of German and English descent primarily).
Portions of Dellschau’s discovered manuscript, Richie states, were written in “a cryptic manner.”
Funding was by a group known only as NYZMA.
Dellschau indicated that the “club’s bizarre machines” (Richie writes) were made operational “by a gas called ‘NB’ or ‘Supe’ which reportedly had the potential to neutralize gravitation (or weight, as Dellschau put it).” [Page 193]
“Dellschau claimed that several airships actually were built and flown, then taken apart so that their workings would remain secret. Two of the craft, he wrote, were destroyed in a fire that swept the community of Columbia, California, some miles from Sonora.” [op cit.]
(That alleged fire could be traced, if anyone cares to try and confirm the story; no date is given however…RR)
Dellschau wrote that “Supe” was the creation of one Peter Mennis, with the manufacturing technique being lost in the 1860s when Mennis died, or was murdered by Club members. [op cit.]
“Dellschau moved to Texas in the 1870s and settled around 1880 in Houston. He left Houston for several months in 1890, on his return, exhibited a changed personality, characterized by fear and anxiety.” [op cit.]
“During this last period of his life, Richie writes, [Dellschau] composed the written accounts of the club’s airships. He attributed the the deaths pf some members of the club to careless talk or to use their knowledge of the airships for personal gain.” [op cit]
Here are a few examples of the drawings Dellschau made of the aircraft the club supposedly created and flew. (More can be found online by a Google image search):
Jose Carvaca provides this, as part of his upcoming December report on the Sonora Club and the Airship wave:
"The story begins when Albert Dellschau arrives at Texas in 1895, one of the epicenters of the wave future, and decides to retake the idea of the Aeroclub in the company of former members as Charles A. Smith and Willard Willson. The financier of the whole operation, according to Busby, was George Hearst, son of former benefactor the group, and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. On this occasion the group join Samuel E. Tillman and Professor Amos Emerson Dolbearthat curiously are cited at a meeting of the AirShip happened in Stephenville, and witnesses claimed that the project was funded by the people of New York. Michael Busby follows this track and confirms that Dolbear was a professor at the University of Massachusetts, being a specialty electric motors."
Photos provided by Jose Caravaca
The Dellschau tale is fantastical, isn’t it? So one wouldn’t be remiss in discounting it.
It reeks of a schizophrenic savant.
However, in the time period – the 1800s to 1900 – human creativity was resplendent in its imaginative and fecund productions, in music (Wagner, Mahler, et al.), science (Darwin, Freud, Einstein), literature (Dostoyevsky, Melville, Poe et al.), Engineering (Edison, Wheeler, Tesla) and other geniuses, some wild and wooly (like the balloonists mentioned in my previous piece), some sedate and thoughtful.
So I contend that, perhaps – perhaps – the Airships of the 1890s were creations by a dedicated raft of engineering or inventive individuals who took ballooning, reconfigured it, and flew brief unwarlike sorties over populated areas.
Yes, the Airship wave could be the result of a kind of mass hysteria created by newspaper accounts that may have been fraudulent in their reportage (to accrue readers and revenue), but certainly not misperceptions of the planet Venus as one rabid skeptic proposed recently.
But I should like to think that some wildly adventurous humans tried to soar in the heavens, before the time when air flight was said to be possible, and some observers got to see their adventurous rides and aircraft, even if the Sonora Aero Club’s airships were only the imaginative ramblings of a man at the edge of insanity.
For me, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Airships of the 1890s were as they were reported.
RR (and JAC)