Charles A.A. Dellschau (Prussian-American, 1830-1923)
When a house in Houston caught fire in the 1960’s, 12 large, hand-bound books were rescued from the flames. These mysterious manuscripts turned out to contain more than 2500 drawings that depicted fantastical airships, as well as clippings from 19th-century newspapers collected over 20 years. The clippings describe technological advances that eventually led to inventing the airplane. The creator, Charles A. A. Dellschau, was a butcher by trade and an obsessive, self-taught artist by night. One possibility is that Dellschau might have been envisioning a secret alternate history of the invention of flight.
Dellschau’s earliest known work is a diary dated 1899, and the latest is an 80-page book dated 1921-1922, giving his career as an artist a 21-year span. His work was in large part a record of the activities of the Sonora Aero Club, of which he was a purported member. Dellschau’s writings describe the club as a secret group of flight enthusiasts who met at Sonora, California in the mid-19th century. One of the members had discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel he called “NB Gas.” Their mission was to design and build the first navigable aircraft using the NB Gas for lift and propulsion. Dellschau called these flying machines Aeros. Dellschau does not claim to be a pilot of any of the airships; he identifies himself only as a draftsman for the Sonora Aero Club. His collages incorporate newspaper clippings (called “press blooms”) of then-current news articles about aeronautical advances and disasters
According to a coded story hidden throughout the drawings which made up his notebooks the Sonora Aero Club was a branch of a larger secret society known only as NYMZA. Despite exhaustive research, including searches of census records, voting rosters, and death records, nothing has been found to substantiate the existence of this group except for a few gravestones in the Columbia Cemetery where several of the surnames are found. It is speculated that, like Henry Darger’s “Realms of the Unreal”, the Sonora Aero Club is a fiction by Dellschau.