Charles A. A. Dellschau Dreams of Flying: The Amazing Story of an Airship Club That Might Never Have Existed

In the 1960s, a house in Houston caught on fire. In the aftermath, a set of 12 scrapbooks were discovered. They depicted a society, the Sonora Aero Club, that had all but disappeared from history, if it was ever there at all.
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It was the time of Gold Rush, and people of every nationality were pouring into California in search of that earth that would make them rich.
The settlement of Sonora, some 130 miles east of San Francisco, was booming. It was there, in the saloon of one of the local boarding houses, that a group of men would get together every Friday night and talk of dreams. Well, just one dream, really: human flight.
They called themselves the Sonora Aero Club and, over time, they counted some 60 members, possibly many more. Their ranks included great characters, such as Peter Mennis, inventor of the Club's secret "Lifting Fluid," later described as "a rough Man, whit as kind a heart as to be found in verry few living beengs," despite being "adicted to strong drink" and "Flack brocke." The Aero Club's rules: Roughly once a quarter, each member had to stand before the gathered group and "thoroughly exercise their jaws" in telling how he would build an airship.
On one night in 1858, a man by the name of Gustav Freyer stood to present his invention: the Aero Guarda, a sort of hamster-wheel cage that would surround an airship, protecting its passengers upon landfall. Freyer was a highly educated mechanic, and he waltzed up to the blackboard, took the chalk in hand, and began.
"Brothers," he said. "You all know I am not quite a professor." He looked at his fellow airship enthusiasts and continued: "I give you a nut to crack. My idea is to put a guard fence all around the machine to fall -- land -- easy and always safe, to keep some of you smarties from falling out." His contraption, he argued, would somersault upon hitting water, so that you would always "stay perpendicular, I mean head up on the floor of the hold."

By Rebecca J. Rosen
Source and read more:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/03/charles-a-a-dellschau-dreams-of-flying-the-amazing-story-of-an-airship-club-that-might-never-have-existed/274170/

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