WHAT WAS IT? The Mystery Airship of 1896

WHAT WAS IT? The Mystery Airship of 1896

“WHAT WAS IT?” screamed the first headline in November 1896. People looked up and saw a brilliant light, coming "from - somewhere." Had the Age of Flight begun, had a new marvel been added to the list of the automobile, the electric light, and the telephone? What else could it be? The Mystery Airship was seen by thousands over California and elsewhere, causing a media frenzy equal to any on today’s 24-hour cable news. This book covers the frenzy day-by-day as the story grew wilder, reporters hunted down every angle, and people wondered – could they believe they own eyes?

The History of the Future is deep, almost endless. Some of it fits coherently into a book I'm planning; the rest is too fascinating to pass over. This site is mostly devoted to the pieces that will suplement the core of the book. And from time to time I'll also be writing full-length articles, up to 20,000 words, on irresistible topics that are too long to fit comfortably on a web page.

 

Throughout the 1890s newspapers published a din of headlines yelling that one or another genius inventor had finally cracked the secrets of flight, a continuous roar of them splashed across front pages in 1896. On November 17, 1896 people all over Sacramento, CA, looked up over the dome of the Capitol building and saw a brilliant light in the skies. For weeks rival newspapers published every detail, perhaps making a few of them up as the story brought in readers. Sightings created headlines; headlines created sightings. Almost everyone hoped that the deliciously exciting 20th century, full of wonder and marvels, had arrived. A wonderful time was had by all.

 

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San Francisco Call, August 23, 1896

San Francisco Call, August 23, 1896

Prediction of a coming electric airship

San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 1896

San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 1896

Cuban rebels were already fighting the Spanish, so an airship to carry hundreds of pounds of bombs to level Havana from the air was a serious proposal.

San Francisco Call, Nov. 19, 1896

San Francisco Call, November 19, 1896

First artist's image of the mystery airship

San Francisco Call, Nov. 23, 1896

San Francisco Call, November 23, 1896

Another image, based on a claim by the supposed inventor's attorney

EK

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    San Francisco Call, Nov. 23, 1896