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Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies (1897)

The May 9, 1897 St. Paul Globe (St. Paul, MN) ran an interesting article titled, "Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies." The article describes proposed flying vessels of the future, as well as newspapers around the United States that had were printing questionable accounts of flying machines already in use. Many of the illustrations from the article are similar to the flying machines we looked at from 1885.

I had no idea that so many newspapers reported -- with questionable intentions -- flying vessels throughout the country. If that's true, I imagine someone has written a book on this late-19th century phenomenon, no?

Mechanical Birds: Dreams of Flight in 19th Century Journalism. See? I already came up with a title for you. Go write the book. Yes, I'm looking at you. Just write it. I promise to buy a copy. But if you really want your non-fiction book to sell, make sure to put "...The Blankity Blank That Changed America Forever" in your subtitle. You'll thank me later. When you're rolling around in piles of money. Cuz that's a million dollar idea.

You can read, "Strange Ships That Sail In The Skies," in its entirety on Scribd.

This is the age of the airship. The evolution of the balloon to the flying machine is nearly complete, and it is not improbably that within a few years great aerial vessels for passenger service and monster engines of war and commerce will be seen sailing through space.

Recently the newspapers of the whole country have been exploiting stories of airships seen hovering over various towns and country places in districts very far apart. The testimony seems impeachable, especially in the face of so many witnesses, but certain details are always lacking to complete the evidence. Now it is a story of a wonderful vessel seen on the Pacific coast in the neighborhood of San Francisco or maybe Sacramento. Next a report comes of one having been seen in Nebraska, or a farmer in some Iowa county reports seeing a bright light and moving object in the air on a dark night. Then the scene shifts, and a man or a score of men report seeing a wonderful what is it from some other remote quarter of the United States.



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Reader Comments (5)

According to David Drake (after he wrote a good story) the dirigible stories around 1900 were fake. According to Ben Hecht newspapers (of that period, or of any?) routinely made up stories to fill space.

On the other hand, (my guess is) some of the Silk Road stories (Marco Polo's floating pillar, etc) were probably true. Smart, capable fellows with access to silk; why not make a balloon to advertise?

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbruce

UFOlogists also point to some of these stories as evidence of 19th century UFO activity -- that basically if all one knows are balloons and airships, and you see something strange in the sky, you call it a mysterious airship... then 70 years later when B-grade movies are full of Martians in flying saucers and you see something strange in the sky, you call it a flying saucer.

March 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

Re: book on the subject - you've imagined correctly. In fact there are several. starting with:

Solving the 1897 Airship Mystery (9781589801257): Michael Busby

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavidP

There are about 5 or 6 books on this subject already.

The Great Airship Mystery by Daniel Cohen.

The Great Texas Airship Mystery by Wallace Chariton.

Mystery Airships In The Sky by Steven Arts.

Solving The 1897 Airship Mystery by Daniel Cohen.


March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvinash Machado

Great summary. I've always been fascinated by the airship stories from this period. I posted a silly visual take about a 19th century airship story from my home state (Washington).

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCKauzlaric

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