Note for: Ernst Fuchs, ABT. 1848 - Index
The parents of Ernest A. Fuchs were Pauline Pohle and Ernest Fuchs,
Sr. They were both born in Germany (Prussia) and married in Houston,
Texas on September 28, 1874. They had thirteen children nine of whom
lived to adulthood. The nine surviving children were Annie, Ernest,
Herman, Emma, Charlie, Henry, Albert, Neal and Esther. Ernest Fuchs,
Sr., returned to Germany many times. Some of his grandchildren and a
daughter believe he had a wife and family there, too. He died and is
buried in Germany. Pauline Pohle Fuchs is buried in the Magnolia
Cemetery, in Houston, Texas. Thus far, I have not located a
tombstone for her grave. She may be in an unmarked grave or it has
been distroyed by vandalism. Years ago, my mother-in-law, Louise Fox
Davis, and I went there trying to locate it and were unsuccessful.
by Sherry Davis
Note for: Joseph McCormick Ward, ABT. 1760 -
8 MAR 1826 Index
Place: Ward Family Cem., Fork Ridge, Marshall Co., WV
Note for: Edward Ward, ABT. 1760 - 5 MAY 1843 Index
Place: Beaver Cem., Beaver Twp., Noble Co., OH
Note for: Charles August Albert Dellschau, 4
JUN 1830 - Index
Lauren Redniss uncovers the fantastical Flying Machines inside The
Aeronautical Notebooks of
Since ancient times, when Icarus and Daedalus strapped on their wings of
wax, man has attempted to overcome his physical limitations and defy
gravity. In the 1850s, a half-century before the Wright Brothers made
history at Kittyhawk, Charles Dellschau believed he held the secret of
Dellschau (1830-1923) was an enigmatic self-taught artist -- a Texas
butcher who spent his retirement cloistered in an attic painting
large-scale books of flying machines. Forgotten for nearly fifty years
after his death, his books were unearthed in the late 1960s. A visually
compelling body of work created by America's earliest known visionary,
the books have since attracted the attention of collectors curators, and
journalists. As early and as-yet unexplained aviation plans, they have
also become a key piece of evidence in attempts to prove the existence of
extraterrestrial life, and they are a highly inventive articulation of an
age-old human impulse. The source of Dellschau's inspiration and the
meaning of his work remain elusive. It is unclear whether he worked from
memory, transcribing the activities of an aeronautical research society,
or from his imagination, depicting with unerring conviction a story of
engineering feats and clandestine activity.
Little is known about Dellschau's life: a birth certificate of one
Charles August Albert Dellschau shows he was born in Brandenburg, Prussia
in 1830. The Civil War Amnesty Oath he signed in 1865 (indicating that he
was a soldier in the Confederate Army) describes a fair-complexioned man,
five foot three inches tall with auburn hair and hazel eyes. Dellschau
emigrated to the United States and settled in Texas in 1850, where he
worked first as a butcher and, after his marriage to Antonia Hilt in
1861, as a sales clerk in his in-laws' saddlery shop. Charles and Antonia
had three children: two daughters, Bertha and Mary, and a son, Edward,
who died in 1877, the year that Dellschau's wife also died, leaving him a
withdrawn widower at forty-seven. Dellschau apparently spent his
retirement until his death in 1923 in self-imposed exile, avoiding his
extended family with whom he lived, painting flying machines in the
attic: they remembered him as a small, hunched man with a gruff German
accent and chronic sniffle.
After his death, Dellschau's house remained in his descendants' hands.
His books were virtually untouched for half a century until the late
1960s, when Fred Washington, a local antiques dealer, spotted at least
twelve of them, placed on the sidewalk after a house clearance, and
bought them from the trash collector for $100. He took them to his OK
In 1968, Mary Jane Victor, an art student at the University of St Thomas
in Houston, found the work in Washington's store, and brought it to the
attention of Dominique de Menil for the Menil Collection. De Menil
purchased four of the notebooks and, not long after, the Menil Collection
contributed them to an exhibition on the history of flight at the
University of St Thomas.
Dellschau's watercolor and collage images form a unified yet cryptic
vision. His flying machines, or 'Aeros' as he titled them, are
sequentially numbered and carefully rendered to demonstrate their
mechanical capabilities: their valves, folding wings, retractable wheels,
and billowing canopies are controlled by crews of men. The drawings
recall illuminated manuscripts: decorative borders frame the bulbous,
hovering machines bedecked in stripes and handwritten captions. They are
accompanied by what Dellschau called 'Press Blooms': newspaper collages
concerning flight. In his own words and paintings, and quoting the voices
of a generation of journalists from the Houston Chronicle and Scientific
American, Dellschau spins an opaque narrative opening onto a mysterious
world of mechanized flying contraptions and chemical experiments run by
dapper nineteenth-century men.
Dellschau seems to have produced his books at a feverish pace of about a
page a day over approximately twenty years, his dedication -- perhaps
obsession -- reflected in endless repetitions of geometric motifs both in
the borders of pages and on the Aero designs themselves. Each image is
heavily ornamented with striped columns, checkered banners, rows of
squares, and other simple shapes.
The restrained palette -- primary colors as well as green, burgundy, and
pink, sometimes with the subtle flourish of metallic gold or silver -- is
probably the result of the limited materials available to him, which
however in no way restricted his work. Rather, his Aeros make up a
spectactular fleet of brilliantly festooned machines, each a distinct
craft, differentiated by name and function, displayed from different
views to illustrate the completeness of the conceived design, as in
'Untitled (4506)'. Figures resembling servants often appear along with
the flight crews. The ships' passengers are varied, but dressed according
to the fashion of the day ('Untitled (4549)').
Turn-of-the-century Houston appears throughout Dellschau's book: hinged
saloon doors and porthole windows open onto the central compartment of
one Aero; elements of another resemble a stagecoach, while what look like
bicycle wheels support multiple designs. Such details suggest that
despite his apparently reclusive nature Dellschau remained engaged in
contemporary life. Possible political leanings are hinted at in his
collages: in 'Untitled (4538)' a half-tone photograph of Leon Trotsky is
framed with Dellschau's own initials. Dellschau also recorded his
anxieties about the darker side of developments of the early 1900s,
alongside press cuttings heralding trans-Atlantic flights, early
passenger dirigibles, and notices about mechanical innovations with
capacities of heroic proportions. In 'Untitled (4774)', for example,
headlines announce 'Airman Killed,' 'Speedy Cox Plane comes to grief on
Eve of Air Derby,' 'Boys Dream of Fame as Flyer Ended by Death.'
Dellschau's frequent inclusion of such articles would seem to indicate
his interest in their specific content, not simply their status as
miscellaneous items concerning aviation. Together, they read like a
caveat against human bravado.
Various mechanical features in Dellschau's drawings seem intended to
ensure safety, such as the 'Falleasey' (sic) device, evidently meant to
cushion the vessels' impacts upon landing. In one image, the Falleasey's
retractability is demonstrated in two sequential drawings. There is even
a 'No Smoking' sign. The caption to the centrally placed motor in the
design of one Aero, 'Untitled (4552)', declares: 'On Wather (sic) Land
and Clouds,' possibly presenting the first-conceived 'all terrain
vehicle.' Balance and symmetry add to the Aero's stability, although a
sense of movement in the designs is, paradoxically, often absent because
of the machines' consistent central position on the page and the
decorative borders that seem to lock them within the boundaries of a
The dream of flight had finally become a reality in Dellschau's lifetime,
and a power that had been, since ancient times, a metaphor of the
impossible, was suddenly tangible, even practicable. There were other
technological breakthroughs that contributed to the gradual changes in
daily life: late nineteenth-century America was being transformed by
photography, the increased use of electricity, the X-ray, the telephone,
and the arrival of the automobile. It was war, however, that threatened
to test them first.
Strange phenomena were also to cause waves of excitement. First in
California, then in the south-western United States, strange lights and
cigarlike forms in the evening sky were reported. Such sightings peppered
the Texas papers of the 1890s, sightings that have never been fully
explained. Whether the reports document real aviation attempts, alien
visitations, or fertile imaginations, they vividly illustrate the public
mood on the cusp of a new era.
Dellschau's newspaper collages show that he was an avid reader of the
papers, and he may well have been aware of the interest surrounding the
mystery airships. Much of the research and writing on him has been
undertaken to prove a connection between Dellschau and UFOs and abduction
Pete Navarro, a Houston artist with an interest in the reported airship
sightings, discovered Dellschau's notebooks at their first public display
in 1969, traced them back to Fred Washington's store and purchased the
remaining eight books. He then began his own intensive study of Dellschau
and his work, and made what is to date the most detailed analysis of
every known book Dellschau produced and, in doing so, believes he has
partially decoded his encrypted message. Piecing together translations of
Dellschau's symbolic writing with research on the names and places found
in the drawings, he believes he may have reconstructed not only
Dellschau's life chronology, but also an important chapter of early
aeronautical history. He writes:
'Sometime around 1850 a group of men who were interested in aeronautics
met in a Sonora, California hotel to form the Aero Club, later renamed
the Sonora Aero Club. The organization was financed by an even more
mysterious society from 'back east' known only as NYMZA.'
Composed mainly of Germans and some Englishmen, the club was fanatically
secretive about its activities, demanding that members abided by strict
rules. A member who had threatened to publicize some of the group's
discoveries apparently fell victim to a mysterious aerial explosion
allegedly arranged by fellow club members. Navarro also believes NYMZA
members had developed an anti-gravity gas, and that this supposedly light
green substance provided the lift power for their designs. Research has
failed to turn up any evidence conclusive enough to prove -- or disprove
-- Navarro's theory, but Dellschau's work holds its own clues, suggesting
that Navarro's hypothesis may have some validity.
Dellschau's drawings are often dated to the 1850s, some labeled 'Club
Work,' others 'Sonora Aero Club.' One design, 'Untitled (4636)', is
labeled 'Sonora, 1856.' Next to an Aero operated by three male figures
'Untitled (4558)' appear the words 'Callifornia, 1856.' A blue substance
churns and drips through a tube from one chamber to another; ropes and
pulleys appear to control the valve opening into the uppermost space.
Similar experiments are found on other pages, such as 'Untitled (4534),'
labeled 'Club Worck,' misspelled in typical Dellschau fashion, a design
attributed to a 'Rex Weber' - whose name appears on additional plates,
one of approximately sixty names that resurface throughout the books. The
names sometimes appear above drawn figures who are identifiable by
characteristic dress, hair color, and accessories. 'Mike Gore' appears in
multiple plates with thick red side-whiskers, red umbrella, and white
stovepipe hat. 'Peter Mennis,' in cowboy hat and boots, and often
accompanied by a little dog, is also prominently featured.
by John H. Lienhard
Click here for audio of Episode 1308.
Today, a Texas immigrant dreams and draws flight. The University of
Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines
that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created
In 1850 Charles Dellschau immigrated from Prussia to Galveston, Texas. By
the time the Civil War started he'd married a widow with a young daughter
and was working as a butcher in Fort Bend County, near Houston. Other
than service in the Confederate Army, he lived an unremarkable life. He
had two more children of his own. His stepdaughter married the noted
Then, in 1877, disaster struck 47-year-old Dellschau. In rapid succession
his wife, then his six-year-old son, died. Dellschau moved into Houston
to work for Stelzig as a clerk. Here he stayed until 1923 when he died at
the age of 93.
That would've been that, if it hadn't been for Dellschau's secret hobby.
Somewhere along the way, maybe after he retired in 1900, he began drawing
great airships. Lynne Adele, of the Huntington Art Gallery at the
University of Texas, tells his story in the catalog of a traveling
exhibit of self-taught Texas artists.
She also shows us his gorgeous, detailed, and annotated mixed-media
images of heroic flying machines -- Barnum and Bailey, Buck Rogers and
Jules Verne all stirred together -- mazes of exotic detail, circus-tent
gas-bags, bicycle wheels, belts and pulleys -- crazily painted pods
shaped like the space shuttle boosters. Each fantastic vehicle has its
own name -- Aero Mio, Aero Doobely, and Aerocita. So much hope and
feeling radiates from each picture
Twelve of Dellschau's scrapbooks surfaced in a junkyard in 1967, forty
years after his death. From there they found their way into art museums.
Then people began deciphering the coded writings he'd left with the
pictures. And a strange story emerged.
Dellschau had, it seems, belonged to a secret society that'd formed in
the California gold-rush region around 1850 -- the Sonora Aero Club. One
member was supposed to've known how to distill a green crystal called
Supe from coal. Add water to Supe and you generate a gas that negates
gravity. Of course, when that member of the Aero Club died, the recipe
for making Supe died with him.
But Dellschau's pictures kept pouring forth. Twelve notebooks survived,
and Dellschau's numbering system suggests that twenty more have been
lost. By now, UFO people have adopted Dellschau's pictures. Some think
that mysterious sightings around Oakland, California, in the 1890s were
actually airships built by the Sonora Aero Club and carried aloft by Supe.
I'm afraid I see both less, and much more, in Dellschau's wild drawings.
Flight was in the air in 1890, all right. We were just beginning to feel
hope for the deep-seated atavistic craving of our species. The Wright
Brothers were only two of a great company -- some drunk with dreams,
others cold sober in their purpose -- who fullfiled that craving.
Dellschau's imaginings are tame alongside the machinery which, by now,
we've actually levitated into the sky.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested
in the way inventive minds work.
Adele. L., Charles Dellschau, 1830-1923. Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught
Artists of the Twentieth-Century, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX,
I'm grateful to Susana Monteverde of the UH Blaffer Gallery, who
recommended Dellschau for an episode and provided me with an early copy
of Adele's catalog. The exhibit is scheduled (at this writing) to appear
in the University of Houston's Sara Campbell Blaffer Gallery between
August 21 and October 11, 1998.