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Note for:   Ernst Fuchs,   ABT. 1848 -          Index
     Place:   Germany

Note:    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
Jan. 2001


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
Charles Dellschau

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 flight.

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 Trading Center.

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 theatrical stage.

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 theories.

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.

No. 1308:
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 them.

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 saddle-maker Stelzig.

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.

(Theme music)

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Adele. L., Charles Dellschau, 1830-1923. Spirited Journeys: Self-Taught Artists of the Twentieth-Century, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX, pp. 40-47.
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.