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Alternate Perceptions Magazine, March 2022

The Midwestern Airship Wave of 1897 - Part 5

by: Rick Hilberg

From the St. Louis Star of April 22, 1897, on page one:

BEREA, O., April 22 - The residents of this village were excited last night over a mysterious light, which illuminated the heavens for some time. The light made several circuits over the village, and was seen by hundreds of people, at times the light would be in a horizontal position and then change to a perpendicular and seemed to move all the time. There were many theories advanced as to the origin of the light, the prevailing one being that it was the mysterious flying machine so much talked of.

From the St. Louis Post - Dispatch of April 23, 1897, on page three:

AUSTIN, Tex., April 23 - A resolution was introduced in the House of the Texas Legislature this morning setting forth that, inasmuch as it has been generally current than an airship was flying around Texas carrying passengers and freight, and inasmuch as said airship is operating without paying any taxes or complying with the rates established by the Texas commission, that said commission be instructed to establish special rates for the airship and see that its management comply with said rates.

From the St. Louis Post - Dispatch of April 25, 1897, on page nine:

Special to the Post - Dispatch

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., April 24 - The airship reported almost daily for the past three weeks as having been seen in different sections of the country is said to have been seen at this place. It is said that the machine met with an accident to its working gear last night, and the navigator was compelled to descend for repairs.

Instead of being cigar or balloon shaped it is said to be the exact shape of a shad, minus head and tail. The metal is aluminum, bound around with thin strips of steel. On each side of this are two large wings, which are fixed knuckle and socket joints. The wings can be moved up or down, back or forward, or in any direction. This makes the ship rise or fall without any loss of gas.

Two motors, one electric and the other naphtha, give the motive power. It is said that from the stern there is a propeller at least nine feet in diameter, which has a maximum revolution of 900 turns a minute. The shad shaped portion is filled with hydrogen gas, having a pressure of twenty-seven pounds, and a lifting capacity of 1,800 pounds.

The passenger car underneath the ship is nine feet long, four feet wide and three feet deep, and is made of bamboo and aluminum strips, which combine strength and lightness. The navigator is said to carry provisions in the shape of canned goods and compressed biscuits. Aluminum vessels compromise the only utensils.

Several presumably truthful citizens of this city have given the foregoing account of the vessel. They said that they came upon the vessel resting on a spur of a mountain near this city. Two men were at work on it and explained that they had been compelled to return to earth because the machinery was out of order. One of the two men said his name was "Prof. Charles Davidson." He is alleged to have said that the vessel left Sacramento a month ago and has been sailing all over the country.

From the St. Louis Star of April 25, 1897, on page one:

Special to the St. Louis Star

WASHINGTON, IA., April 24 - Prof. Frank Brinton, the traveler, lecturer and inventor, has returned from his trip to Washington, D. C. where he went in the interest of his airship. He has his claim filed, and will have his letters patent in four or five months. He says that in all the 160 models of airships that he saw there was not one that even resembled his, which is built on the principle of a bird in flight.

Mr. Brinton does not only expect his ship to fly, but says it already does fly. The model is about two feet from tip to tip of its wings and about five feet long. The model is run by a spring wound up like that of a clock. He says it will float around a room for ten minutes at one winding. Prof. Brinton says he expects to cross the Atlantic in his airship to attend the Paris exhibition.

From the St. Louis Post - Dispatch of April 28, 1897, on page four:


When the airship first began its pranks there were not wanting those who prophesied that the advent of a practical airship meant the ultimate downfall of the institution of private property. How could private property be maintained when airships could swoop down at night and carry off a man's cattle or wrench off his roof with its anchors and then burglarize his residence from above downwards? Unless all the ranches could be roofed in with steel and the villas and palaces made bombproof, the entire population would have to sit up nights with rifle in hand to protect its possessions.

And now comes the news from Kansas that an airship has swooped down and lassoed a man's cow. It has carried off a bawling two-year-old heifer, and very nearly took with it a wire fence and the farmer who was hanging on hoping to prevent the theft.

This is a serious matter, and the public will not be content with a mere affidavit to the effect that Farmer Hamilton, the man who raised this heifer from a playful calf to a bawling two-year-old, is an absolutely truthful man. Detectives should at once be dispatched to Yates Center, Woodson County, where the airship committed its depredations, and gather all the evidence obtainable. Photographs should be taken of the hoofprints of the heifer. Her genealogy should be carefully made up. It should be ascertained whether or not she was a gentle animal as a calf, and supped her "mash" from the pail as Farmer Hamilton held it between his knees without knocking him backwards. And if there is any of her hair still attached to that wire fence it should be examined by the scientists, and if necessary, analyzed by the State Chemist.

And now is the time for the experimenting surgeons to make every effort to graft the wings of the albatross on to a bloodhound, so as to breed animals that can follow airships that dare to lasso Kansas cows. The Kansas cow must not be stolen with impunity. Science must come to the rescue. The airship must be foiled before it is everlastingly too late.

From the St. Louis Post - Dispatch of May 7, 1897, on page 5:


NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 7 - The airship trial announced in yesterday's Post - Dispatch was a complete success. Pro. A. W. Barnard, the inventor, is gymnastic instructor in the Y. M. C. A. His invention was kept a secret until yesterday, when the trial trip was decided on from the Exposition grounds. At 11:15 o'clock the professor started on his trip. He mounted a bicycle contrivance attached to a big balloon and sailed gracefully away. He returned last night in a wagon and reported that he had gotten twelve miles, when one of the propellers broke. He had no difficulty in landing. He will make another trip in a few days.

The ship is of watermelon shape, 46 feet long and 20 feet in diameter, and sails lengthwise. Instead of the basket attachment of a balloon, it has a bicycle frame, and by means of the pedals and handles the propeller and the side sails are controlled. The machine consists of reversible sails about one-twentieth the size of the balloon part overhead. At either side of the machine is a kite-shaped sail, about 3 feet long by 2 feet wide. These also are reversible, and are controlled by revolving levers. The balloon is filled with hydrogen, and is made of silk and cotton.

From the St. Louis Post - Dispatch of May 8, 1897, on page one:

George W. Lubke, Jr., has seen a real airship.

Nobody in St. Louis will question the veracity of Mr. Lubke or his ability to understand and appreciate whatever he sees.

He is a well-known attorney, in practice with his father, Judge Lubke, in the Commercial building, and this is the event he described to a reporter of the Post - Dispatch:

"Last night, at 5:45 o'clock, I had reached the corner of Easton avenue and Thomas street, when I chanced to look toward the sky in a southeasterly direction. A moving object, plainly in sight - attracted my attention. It was apparently over Garrison avenue, moving north in a slow and steady course.

"I watched the object until it hung above Thomas street. It stopped and proceeded to turn slowly about. Then I had an opportunity of viewing it more closely. It was not exactly cigar-shaped, as the deflections at the ends were not pronounced to a point, but more like the stern of a canoe. As it veered about, I observed a white object in the center of the side, though, of course I was unable to determine its character- whether a painted wheel or a canvas.

"When the half-circle of the ship had been completed, its course changed to the northwest, in which direction it traveled more rapidly and finally disappeared in the direction of the Fair Grounds.

"While walking on homeward I met a newspaper carrier who knew me, and he asked if I had seen the airship. I replied in a non-committal way by asking if he had seen it. Then he told me he had viewed it through an opera-glass from near Grand and Easton avenues. His description of it corresponded precisely with my own observation, even to the white object on the side.

"What do you think it was?" asked the reporter.

"An airship, certainly," replied Mr. Lubke. "The turn it made while apparently hovering over Thomas Street convinced me on that point."

The Airship in the East

Special to the Post - Dispatch

NEW YORK, May 8 - That airship has come in out of the West, and according to the solemn testimony of citizens of Harlem and Bridgeport, it was cavorting around in midair hereabouts early Friday morning. It seemed 100 feet in the air and a light shone therefrom as though portholes.

Saturday, April 13, 2024