Charles Dellschau

And The Mysterious Sonora Aero Club

Charles Dellschau is a name that gets tossed around with the likes of Henry Darger and Adolf W├Âlfi when discussing "outsider art."

When it comes to Dellschau's life little is known of him. Born in Prussia in 1830, exactly where and when he arrived in the US is undocumented. Based on speculation on what records remain, he most likely immigrated to somewhere in the US around 1849, and was definitively living in Texas in 1860. That leaves us with about a decade long gap of his life unofficially accounted for (keep this in mind for later on). From what we do know as a result of later records, he lived a normal life as a butcher and even served in the CSA during the civil war. He retired in 1899 and passed away in 1923. It wasn't until a fire at his family's homestead in the late 1960s that the world would come to learn of the project he worked in secret following his retirement.

Following this fire, the remnants of his personal items were left on the curb to be disposed of. This included 12 notebooks filled with art created during his retirement. The books were narrowly spared from meeting their end at the local dump by a scavenging antique dealer.

All together, the shoestring-bound books contain some 2,000 pages, each a double-sided collage replete with calligraphy (often in a code that is still today only partially deciphered), drawings, and newspaper clippings. (Dellschau referred to the clippings as "press blooms," as though they were preserved flowers.) Each page -- or "plate," as Dellschau called them -- is dated and numbered, though the counting starts at number 1601. The estimated 10 volumes with the first 1,600 drawings are presumed lost or destroyed.

The notebooks fixate on air travel, depicting fantastical flying machines as well as newspaper clippings regarding early air transportation. However what makes these books/artworks stand out is a couple of things, including their extensive use of a cryptic language that has yet to be fully solved.

The other odd thing about these works is Dellschau's frequent mentions of something known as the Sonora Aero Club. The club, of which Dellschau claimed to be a member, was described by him as a secret aeronautics society operating in California during the 1850s (aka the decade long lapse in any official records of Dellschau mentioned earlier.)

These books "came to the attention of graphic designer and ufologist Peter Navarro" who was researching the wave of alleged/mysterious airship sightings occurring in the US during the 1890s. Navarro "decoded and translated [much of] the writings in and around [Dellschau's art]." In doing so, "Narvarro pieced together a tale of Dellschau's involvement in a secret society of [German] inventors living in gold-rush California [...] They were the work of this secret group, The Sonora Aero Club, and its even more shadowy backer the NYMZA."

"It was believed that this group were occupied by the idea of navigable 'Aeros' or aircraft, in a time where the most advanced aerial technology was the balloon [...] One of the members of this group had also purportedly discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel, which was named 'NB Gas'. Their mission was to design and build the first navigable aircraft using the NB Gas for lift and propulsion. Dellschau did not claim to be a pilot of any of the airships; he did however, identify himself as a draftsman for the Sonora Aero Club."

"We don't know if the Sonora Aero Club actually existed, and if so, did these flying contraptions exist? If they did not, what was Dellschau's purpose in creating thousands of coded illustrations? There are notes in his journal that one day the Wonder Weaver would break the code. If this was the case this might be the only evidence we have that Dellschau intended these works to eventually be released to the public, and evidence for why he devoted thousands of hours and literally decades to create them. But we still don't know fully the message he intended to deliver. The process of learning about Dellschau and his Press Blooms somewhat resembles cracking the Mayan code, to a much lesser degree."

You can read more about Charles Dellschau and the Sonora Aero Club HERE.

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