Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Great Airship That is Startling the People of Many Cities -- January 5, 2019

San Francisco Call, 23-November-1896
There were many sightings of unidentified flying objects in the United States during the 1890s.  I wonder what people saw.  

It Cleaves the Air With Pinions Like a Huge Condor.


The Inventor's Lawyer Describes the Machine and Says It Is Genuine.


The Call's Exclusive Account of the Greatest Invention of the Age Is Now Corroborated by Thousands.

For several days there have been persistent reports that a huge airship has been seen in the vicinity of Oakland. Sacramento and San Francisco. The Call has contained daily and exclusive accounts of the appearance, and now there is an avalanche of testimony to the effect that many persons of truthful reputations have seen something like a huge seraph in the air, spreading its electric pinions .and soaring faster than a giant condor of tbe Andes. So numerous have been the reports that the possibility of aerial navigation is now tbe absorbing theme of the day.

There is now a vast amount of corroboative testimony to the effect that there is a practical airship afloat in the azure spaces hereabouts, and the meaning of this testimony has been made clear by the positive statement of Attorney George D Collins of Alameda that he has a wealthy client wbo is tbe inventor of the great aerial ship, and that it will soon be known to the entire world.

The ship was seen in Sacramento last night, and the evidence is increasing that the same great propeller recently passed through the heavens over Oakland and San Francisco.
The positive testimony of Collins that the airship is a reality has now been signally corroborated by the testimony of thousands of citizens of Sacramento who saw the great ship in the air last night. The following accounts from Oakland and Sacramento make the matter as clear as ordinary human testimony could do.

One of the most interesting of the corroborative stories comes from Thomas Jordan of San Rafael, who states that he found a machine-shop in a mountain fastness some months ago: that six men were working on an airship and that it would soon be completed.

In tbe first day's story of the airship, as printed in The Call, it was stated that an old hunter named Brown of Bolinas Ridge had seen an airship floating a few hundred feet above the pine trees one morning just as the fogs were lifting from tbe ridge.

He Knows the Inventor of the Ship. 

OAKLAND, Cal., Nov. 22.— Attorney Collins was the busiest man in Alameda County to-day. During the first part of the day all his efforts were directed to keeping away from the carious throng that wished to talk to him aud interview him and try to induce him to describe and draw pictures of the Oroville millionaire's airship. Not until late in the evening could he be induced to go into the parlor of hie home on Union street, Alameda, and tell what he knew of the invention that has startled not only this State, but the entire country.

"A few weeks ago," said Mr. Collins, "I came from Washington, whither I had been on important business. On my arrival in this State I met a gentleman who introduced himself to me, and when I told him where 1 had been he immediately said he was very sorry that he had not met me prior to my departure, as he bad some important business to transact at the Patent Office in Washington which he would not trust in the mail or by any other means than a trusted servant.

"I asked him what his business consisted of, but beyond telling me that he was an inventor, I got no further details from him at that time. He told me enough in an indirect manner to convince me that he was a man who had a secret that he evidently cherished dearly, but be enlightened me no further, and beyond exchanging cards, our acquaintanceship developed nothing more till later. A few days afterward he called on me at my office in San Francisco, but as he did not talk about business, I concluded that he had merely paid me a social call. I became greatly interested in that invention. The could not help noticing that there was a desire on his part to tell me more than I knew, and I could also see that he restrained himself from doing so. He called on me a second time, chatted about a few immaterial matters and departed, leaving me in wonder as to when he would confide anything further to me. Altogether, he made about half a dozen of these visits, and I concluded that he really did intend to talk business every time he came, but that his courage failed him aa soon as he got in the office.

"Finally he got up courage enough to tell me he was not only an inventor but that he really had an invention. He asked me if he could place confidence in me. I replied, 'Do you mean as a friend or as an attorney?' He said, 'As both.' I told him that I could not recall any oc casion in which I had violated a friend's or a client's confidence and that I thought I was fully capable of attending to any business he might wish me to transact for him. He said that if his secret were made public prematurely it would mean the loss to him of an immense fortune. He further assured me thai it wa« an invention that anybody would willingly steal if they had the opportunity. I talked to him for a little while and succeeded in assuring him that if such were the case I, as an attorney, would be just as anxious to protect his interests as he would be himself.

"I am telling you the details of my first meeting with this inventor because they carry with them a good idea of the nature of the man and also are evidence of his sincerity and belief in the practicability of his invention.

"He is a resident of Oroville and a man of wealth, about 47 years of age, and a fine looking fellow. He does not talk for five minutes without convincing his hearer that he is a man of more than ordinary intelligence. The first time he talked to me of his invention he got as far as the word airship; then I laughed, and laughed heartily.

"What kind of whisky have you been drinking?" I asked him.

This made him indignant, and had I laughed any longer be certainly would have got very angry and I should have most probably have lost a client.

"'I have not been drinking, sir,' he said, 'and when 1 do it is not whisky.'

"Even that answer did not assure me, and I again said, 'Have any members of your family ever been in the lunatic asylum?'

"He did not appreciate this any more than my other remark, and drawing him self to his full height and stamping one foot on the floor, he replied, 'No, sir, I am a man of business. I have come here on a business errand, and had I not met you previously and been convinced that I could trust you I think our acquaintance would end right here. However, I can excuse your surprise, for everybody believes that an inventor must naturally be crazy until he has proved that his invention is practicable. Then, I suppose, people call him a genius. I have got over the crazy stage, but I do not yet claim to be a genius; but 1 certainly am practical.

"He then proceeded to tell me of his invention. He has been working for several years and in order to avoid suspicion on the part of local people he has had all the machinery and material shipped from the East in such manner as not to excite curiosity.

"Of course I am informed regarding nearly all the details, but I am not at liberty to talk about them. As near as I can recollect the propelling power is produced by compressed air, which works the arms and also produces the light. There is in the airship a little motor of sufficient power to produce the brilliant light that everybody has seen. As soon as he told me this 1 hinted that it would be a good thing to make the matter public, but he refused, saying that publicity at that time wouid call attention to his work, would interfere with the progress of his caveat, and might prove the ruin of his enterprise. Now he is not so particular. He has informed me that it is sufficiently advanced for nim to patent, and that he can take out successive patents for any other contrivance he may invent in order to make his machine perfect.

''The next time we met was quite recently and after the machine had been seen in various parts of the State. He told I me that the fellows were right who talked to the Call reporter at Sacramento and were telling the truth. On the night that it was seen there he left Oroville in tbe afternoon, made a straight trip to Sacramento, which is about sixty miles, took a few turns over the Capitol, went off about fifty miles and descended. On that occasion he made sixty miles in forty-five minutes, but I understand that there is practically no limit to the speed which can be attained, provided the necessary machinery is made. I mean by this that the principle of the airship would almost admit of lightning speed but that conditions that have to be met of course limits power of resistance.

"I believe, however that in a very short time it will be able to make three miles in in two minutes, and the inventor tells me that more is possible.

"The machine did pass over Oakland last Friday night. The inventor came from Oroville and descended near Haywards. I do not know where the machine is now, but I think all day yesterday it remained where it descended. The inventor is making trips every night and has been doing so for over two weeks, and any night the people look in the sky they are likely to see him. A week ago he told me that it was nearly perfect, with the exception of a little wavy motion, which produced the sensation very closely allied to seasickness. This he was confident of preventing, and apparently from what is reported he has made the necessary adjustment to insure smooth flying.

"From every quarter I have received reports during the past few days of this machine, and although there are many who may still be skeptical regarding what is claimed for it, I thoroughly believe that it is now perfect."

R. B. Mitchell of the firm of Pierson and Mitchell, San Francisco, called on Mr. Collins this evening to discuss the merits of the new invention. Mr. Mitchell had the idea when he called that Mr. Collins had the inventor hidden in his house for the purpose of keeping him from the public. Mr. Collins, however, denied this and said that he could not really give any information of the inventor's whereabouts.

"I have no doubt," said Mr. Collins, "that if the night is at all pleasant the inventor is in his machine about half a mile over the earth startling some of the inhabitants of this State. To-morrow morning's papers may possibly inform you where he was at this time. I believe he has gone home, and if he has he certainly flew there."

Then Mr. Mitchell became very definite. He said: "Mr. Collins, I have known you for a long time to be a reputable man, and one who has a character to sustain. Now, on your honor as a professional man, do you profess to believe all that you have said and to put confidence in the scheme of this inventor?"

"From what I have seen of the man and his invention," said Mr. Collins, "I have no alternative but to believe implicitly all I have said."

General W. H. H. Hart met Mr. Collins in San Francisco to-day and talked with him about the discovery. "I have no doubt," said the general, "that this affair is bona fide. I have seen the thing in the air myself, and believe the ideas of this Oroville inventor have proved to be practicable."

Mr. Tyler, assistant librarian of the San Francisco Law Library, was in company with his sister and Mrs. Philbrook on Friday evening and distinctly saw the airship a little later than it was seen in Oakland. This evidence fully bears out the statement of the passengers and motor-man of the Piedmont car, who asserted that after it bad passed over St. Mary's College it was headed for San Francisco. It was reported to-night that a newspaper which has up to this time apparently been unaware that an airship has been flying around the State was intending to credit the discovery to a young dentist at Oroville. Mr. Collins was asked about this and said that it was absolutely without foundation, that the inventor is not a dentist and is nearly 50 years of age.

Nautical men who have paid particular attention to the various descriptions of eye-witnesses of this airship declare that the inventor has carefully followed out the principle of flying exemplified by the albatross. The machine itself closely resembles a bird, and when all the facts connected with its construction are made known it will doubtless be learned that the Oroville man took a seabird for his model and drew from it his inspiration.

Thousands View the Great Airship With Wonder.

SACRAMENTO, Cal., Nov. 22— The entire city is in a fever of excitement, and all that can be heard on every side is airship, airship, airship. The mysterious aerial traveler paid this city another visit this evening, and this time it passed directly over the downtown portion of the city and exhibited to wondering thousands of the citizens its magnificent searchlight.

There could be no possible mistake, tor there in plain view of all, moving slowly along with a slight wavering motion, was a large electric light, fully twice the candle-power of an ordinary arc light. The light was at an enormous height and still plainly visible, as the heavens were entirely obscured by a mass of dark clouds, which every moment threatened to burst into a drenching rain, and in consequence the mysterious light was thrown into intense relief against their dark background. The light first made its appearance over the lower portion of the city, and was moving slowly into the wind in a southwesterly direction. One of the first to see it was Isaac Gough on Second and K streets. As soon as he became fully satisfied that it was the much-talked-of aerial visitant he gave notice to all in the surrounding stores and hotels, and within a few minutes the streets were black with masses of excited people, all gazing heavenward.

As the news spread the housetops became black with people, and frantic men rushed wildly into telephonic communication with their homes in order to inform their wives and families that high up in the heavens human beings were gayly sailing through the air toward San Francisco. The streetcars were an important factor also in spreading the information aa the motormen shouted the news to the bystanders as their cars rapidly threaded their way through the crowded thoroughfares, and it needed but a wave of the hand skyward to draw the attention of all to the heavens.

Jacob Zemansky, the well-known downtown cigar man, obtained a powerful telescope and watched the light until it faded into nothingness in the distance. In speaking of it he said: "It simply passes my understanding. If that was not an electric arc light of intense power then I never saw one. Looking at it with the naked eye it seemed to move in a straight line, but seen through the glass it rose and fell like a boat on a gently swelling tide. I could not distinguish any positive shape, only a dark mass of mistlike substance to which the light seemed to be attached."

Mr. Carraghbar of the Saddlerock Restaurant also gives a similar description of the light and its movement, and states that in his opinion it was attached to an air vessel of some description, and after being in plain sight for over twenty minutes it faded away in the distance.

Of the thousands who viewed the mysterious visitant this evening, the vast majority had been among the ranks of the most pronounced skeptics ever since the first publication of the subject in Tuesday's Call, for the reason that they are living in the lower part of the city and had failed to catch a glimpse of the light on its previous appearance, and in consequence its reappearance descended upon them like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky. For over a week they had laughed and jeered and treated the subject with scorn and derision, but here before their very eyes was the self-same vision which had greeted their friends and neighbors in the eastern portion of the city, and they were forced by the evidence of their own eyes to abandon their unbelief.

As soon as it became fully evident to all that the light was no meteor or star, a thousand stories were related of what people had heard and seen on its previous visitation.

Mr. Johnson, foreman of the Haggin ranch, in company with another gentleman, was driving across the bare plains adjacent to the city last Tuesday night when they plainly heard a merry chorus of human voices. The thing was uncanny and unreal. They were entirely alone; on all sides stretched bare fields without a bush or fence, no human being was visible, nor was there a possibility of secretion, and yet the merry chorus rang out distinct, but faint. They stopped their team and listened and looked, saw the clear bright light high over their beads, bat did not dream that but a short distance above them human beings were floating along on the night wind and fearing the ridicule of their acquaintances, held their peace.

Another story which has come to light is that an employe of the paint shop of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company has received a letter from one of the inmates of the aerial ship, who was an old acquaintance. This letter, postmarked Oakland, stated that the writer had made one of the crew of an airship which made a most successful voyage last Tuesday night, and bad arrived in the vicinity of Oakland about 12 o'clock. He stated that the ship had worked beautifully with the exception that the motion was very disagreeable.

He also stated that after making alterations and receiving patent rights the vessel would be placed on exhibition, and that this would occur before the first of the coming month. It is claimed that the painter's shopmates laughed the letter to scorn, and that he wan so thoroughly convinced that his friend was not misleading him that he wagered $20 that what his friend bad written would come to pass. This story was related by several, but is not authenticated, as they would not betray the writer's name without his permission.

Colvin Brown, local representative of the Chronicle, was an eye witness of the mysterious light this evening. He has been a skeptic of the most pronounced type and was loth to believe the evidence of his own eyes. Center of a group of the corner of Seventh and K streets, he produced an almanac to endeavor to prove that the planet Venus had left her orbit and was coquetting with Sacramento. As his explanation was not received with favor he started off in search of Sergeant Barwick of weather fame to endeavor to prove the mysterious light to be a meteor on the warpath.

Of all the onlookers this evening the employes of the streetcar system are the most jubilant. They have been held up to derision for over a week ; their lives made miserable by jocular inquiries as to the nature of the stimulants they mostly imbibe and various inquiries as to when they intended to take a trip, etc.

"I am heartily delighted that the entire city has seen this mysterious light to-night," said one of the motormen. "Now this eternal joshing will cease. My life has been a misery for the past week, but now all can see for themselves that we were not stretching the long bow. It is particularly aggravating, when one plainly sets a phenomenal occurrence and relates it, that he is treated as a gigantic liar."

Assistant Superintendent Rosa of the streetcar system is also jubilant. "I was simply positive," said he, "that this light was of an electrical nature. I have made a close study of this mysterious agent for years. I saw this moving light for upward of thirty minutes Tuesday night and was positive that it was electrical. Also I noticed its swaying and rising and falling movement and was convinced in my own mind that it was attached to a vehicle of some nature. At first I thought it might be in a balloon, but knowing that machinery requisite to produce a light of that volume and intensity would weigh upward of a ton, I concluded that it might possibly be that some one had solved the problem of aerial navigation, and this belief was strengthened by observing that the light was moving south against the wind. I am now almost convinced that the great problem has been solved and that within a short time the air will be peopled with ships."

This seems to be the public belief in this city to-night among all who have witnessed the reappearance of this mysterious light and never has there been witnessed such an overwhelming and sudden change in public opinion as its reappearance has caused. In the corridors of the hotels groups of excited people clustered discussing all the possibilities of this wonderful discovery. In the saloons healths are being drunk to the successful discoverer, and on all sides universal belief has taken the place of skepticism. Since the reappearance of this mysterious light this evening there has been a general search made for copies of Wednesday's Call which gave an exclusive account of the first appearance of the aerial visitant and a copy cannot be purchased for love or money. Those possessing them brought them out to read to their friends but refused to part with them.

Stories That Corroborate the Fact of the Invention.

The following letter from San Rafael explains a phase of the story that has not yet come to light:

San Rafael, Nov. 22, 1896.

Editor Call: The mysterious light mentioned in your valuable paper this morning as seen by several citizens in different parts of the State, and which seems to mystify yourself as well as your readers, is nothing more than an airship, and of this fact I am perfectly cognizant. I think now that I am released of my obligation of secrecy, which I have kept for nearly three months, as the experiment in aerial navigation is a fixed fact and the public or a few of the public at least have seen its workings in the air.

In the latter part of last August I was hunting in the Tamalpais range of mountains, between the high peak and Bolinas Bay. I wounded a deer, and in chasing it I ran onto a circular brushpile about ten feet in height in a part of the mountain seldom visited even by hunters.

I was somewhat astonished, and my curiosity prompted me to approach it, when I encountered a man who sang out: "What are you doing here and what do you want?" I replied that "I had wounded a deer and was chasing It." He said "that they had been camping here for a month or so and had not seen a deer, but if you think your deer is in the neighborhood I will assist you in finding it as we need a little meat in camp." This man went with me and in less than 500 yards found my deer. We carried it into the brush corral. And what a sight -— a perfect machine shop and an almost completed ship. I was sworn to secrecy and have kept it till this moment. Six men were at work on the "aerial ship." It is this ship that a few people have seen at night on its trial trip. It returns to its home before daylight and will continue to do so until perfected. Yours, William Jordon.

E. A. Lamkin of 305 Larkin street says he saw the airship at an early hour last night making its way toward Sacramento and soon fading away in the distance like a falling meteor.

Walter Malloy, deputy sheriff and commissary at the County Jail, says the light of the airship was seen in San Francisco Tuesday evening. His statement is as follows:

"When I left the jail on Tuesday night I happened to look in the direction of Berkeley and I saw an unusual sight. It was a strong white light, seemingly moving. I thought at first it was a balloon with a lantern attached, but on a closer observation I thought I recognized a dark body immediately over the light, somewhat of a different shape from a balloon. The more I observed it the more puzzled I became as to what it was. Finally I dismissed it from my mind until next morning, when reading The Cali. I saw that others had noticed the strange light. Now I am fully convinced that what I saw was the airship seen by others who were nearer to it than I was. Yet from my position on Kearny and Broadway I had a good view of it and I am ready to indorse what others have said regarding its appearance."

Max Roberts, an employe of the Western Union Telegraph Company, engaged in the capacity of a night watchman, says he saw the airship about 11:50 o'clock Wednesday night.

Lieutenant George N. Chase, U. S. A., Talks of the Wonderful Discovery.

Lieutenant George N. Chase, U. S. A., the inventor of an "aerodromic system of transportation," was seen yesterday on the subject at his residence in Oakland. Mr. Chase has spent many years in investigating the subject of aerial navigation, and is thoroughly conversant with the practical and theoretical difficulties in its way. He has written a pamphlet setting forth his ideas, and outlining a sort of compromise between aerial navigation and the present system of transportation, which many engineers have accepted as in the highest sense practical.

He said yesterday: "I have read some of the accounts of the alleged 'airship.' One in a morning paper yesterday was rather confusing. The attorney for the inventor in his statement says that it is 150 feet Jong, and that the inventor 'moved some of the mechanism,' and thereafter he saw it rise, the wings flapping to a height of about 90 feet, making a series of circles, and descent, etc He says also: 'There was no motive power, so far as I could see.' For a patent attorney who made the application for the patent and drew up the specifications this is a remarkable statement. He says that his client has 'forsaken the ideas of Maxim and Langley,' and yet states that 'it is built on the aeroplane system,' the only system ever advocated by either — a system which I showed in my monograph published in St. Louis in 1894 was the only possible one. As I said then:

Experiment has demonstrated the fact that it Is possible to construct a vehicle possessing the ability to arise in the air, carrying a considerable load, and capable of being propelled. The obstacles that have so far baffled mans' ingenuity are his ability to control the machine even under the most favorable circumstances and his failure to provide energy enough to propel it to any considerable distance. This latter difficulty cannot be overcome by any Known method of storing up potential energy in a structure which Is designed to sever all connection with terra firma and In which levity becomes of primal importance. • • • Flight is not a function of levity but o( weight and power. Man if he ever fly must closely imitate the flight of birds. The fledgling, after one or two abortive attempts, adjusts its motions successfully and naturally to the accomplishment of perfect flight. The rate of vibration of its wings and the inclination of their surfaces to the varying direction of the wind to the line of flight are instinctively changed with the rapidity of lightning. Given a machine which is capable of performing all the essential functions of a bird in flight it is extremely doubtful if the coolest human intellect could ever be trained to control it safely under all the conditions and circumstances which it must inevitably encounter.

While I said," continued Mr. Chase, "that the conditions seem too many, or, rather the unknown quantities are at present too few, for a satisfactory solution of this problem pure and simple, still it must be conceded that considerable progress has been made since that was written toward the scientific solution of this great problem by Professor Langley, Maxim in England, Chanute in Chicago and Herr Lilienthal. I must say, however, that if it has quietly been solved upon a commercial basis in one of our back counties it is very surprising, and the secret has been remarkably well kept.

"One thing is certain — he is a rash man who in these days asserts the impossibility of anything in engineering.*"

The Air Craft Said to Have Been Seen Sailing Toward Mount Hamilton.

SAN JOSE. Cal., Nov. 22. — Frank Everett, a young man residing in this city, claims to have seen the mysterious airship seen by the residents of Sacramento and elsewhere pass over the eastern portion of this city about 11 o'clock to-night.

Everett said he was standing on Santa Clara street, near East San Jose, when he distinctly saw the airship high up in the heavens. He claims that several persons who were in that vicinity also saw the ship, and that others whose attention was called to it saw the flashlight of the craft rapidly disappear. The ship was said to be going in a southeasterly direction, toward Mount Hamilton.

H. Erlich drove up while the crowd was standing gazing skyward and saw the light disappearing. To him some of the people said they distinctly saw the ship. Neither he nor Everett knew the names of any persons in the crowd, most of whom were in carriages.

Experimenters Near Oroville.

OROVILLE, Cal., Nov. 22.— There seems to be some foundation that the airship which recently passed over Sacramento was built in this neighborhood, but no information can be obtained as to who the builder could be. Rumor has it that two parties were recently experimenting with new and light gas which they expected would outdo anything yet introduced for balloon purposes. It is also asserted by others that three or four comparatively unknown parties of wealth have been for several weeks experimenting with various gases and feel confident of solving aerial navigation.

San Francisco Call, 23-November-1896

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