In Sonora, California, a mysterious group of aeronautical aficionados, including Peter Mennis, George Newell, August Schoetler and Christian Axel von Roemeling founded the Sonora Aero Club. The club rendered plans for airships, held discussions about fuel components, debated engineering techniques and - most intriguingly - may have existed only in the mind of Charles A. A. Dellschau (1830-1923). To date, scholars do not know whether the club, or the discussed members, were real or figments of the artist's imagination (Charles A. A. Dellschau, pp. 26, 41).
Dellschau, an immigrant from Berlin who settled in the Houston area, worked as a butcher for most of his life and turned to writing his memoirs and recording the accompanying airships only after his retirement. His connection with the real or imagined California-based Aero Club is chronicled in three memoir manuscripts, and later in notebooks that contained mixed-media “plates” (pages) of airships amidst “press blooms” (articles clipped from newspapers). Each page is dated and numbered sequentially, providing a clear chronology to the work. Twelve of these notebooks survive, though gaps in Dellschau's consistent numbering system indicates there were more.
The mixed media drawings on this plate, dated Saturday, March 8, 1919 (recto) and Wednesday, March 12, 1919 (verso) and numbered 4328 and 4329 respectively, demonstrate Dellschau’s various techniques. 4328 is dominated by a press bloom entitled “Winds and the Trans-Atlantic Flight,” whose thesis states, “Past performances of Zeppelins, Italian airships, giant Handley-Page airplanes and large flying boats bear out the prediction that there are machines in existence today that are perfectly capable of making a trans-Atlantic flight.” Above and beside this two-column article, Dellschau rendered a flag-like patriotic swag, the red, white and blue bands articulating the nationalistic pride the artist felt at the possibility of this type of journey. The overall form around the text columns is shaped like one of Dellschau’s airships, creating an image of air travel both visually and intellectually, through pictorial outline and through words. In three corners of the drawing, Dellschau wrote, in bold yellow and red block capital lettering, MAY BEES (upper left), WILL BEES (upper right) and CALCULATION (lower right), each referring to the central article.
4329 is an image of a red, green and black balloon-like ship, the "Long Tour Aero Cod." Its pilot is visible in the right-hand window. The machine, complete with gears and wheels, is rendered active through dotted lines that indicate the movements and directions of its various structural components. The sky blue background of the page is gridded, allowing for more accurate rendering of this ship. A small press bloom is incorporated into the upper left of the work, reading, “Captain Coli is planning an aeroplane flight across the Atlantic, and those who think it can’t be done had better not let Coliseum.” Whether Dellschau saw the humor and incorporated this blurb as the pun it is designed to be, or whether he included it in earnestness because of the reference to trans-Atlantic travel, its inclusion adds whimsy to the work.