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The Art of Charles Dellschau & The Mystery of The Sonora Aero Club Part 1

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

The Art of  Charles Dellschau
The Art of Charles Dellschau

The Art of Charles Dellschau

An Unknown Artist & A Mystery

Charles Albert August Dellschau died in a house in Houston Texas in 1923 at the age of 93.

It was not until sometime in the 1960s when his old home (untouched since his death) caught fire that 12 scrapbooks were found.

In those scrapbooks created sometime between 1908 and 1921, during Dellschau's retirement, were intricate drawings and memories of the machines, meetings, and members of the Sonora Aero Club.

1 of the 12 Scrapbooks
1 of the 12 Scrapbooks

The artbooks languished for years in Houston's OK Trading Center eventually finding a home with an art dealer. Over time more and more interest was generated and more works of Dellschau were found with more drawings. Those writings and drawings were known as Recolections. (Read this article for a complete description of the memoir: Recolections: The First Memoir of Charles A.A. Dellschau. )

The problem is there is no proof "The Aero Club" ever existed.

Dellschau Airship
Dellschau Airship

Dellschau was born in 1830 in Berlin, Germany. Dellschau scholar Tracy Baker-White indicates he probably came to the United States in 1849. The first real documentation of Dellschau in America is from 1860. At the time he was living in Fort Bend County Texas and applied for citizenship from that address. He worked for most of his life as a butcher.

It's the missing decade or so that opens up the possibility of Dellschau being in California panning for gold and talking about airships, but that is speculation.

Dellschau was a self-taught artist, a genius as decribed by many. If any of this was based on reality it is amazing, if not it is still brilliant writing and art!

Unfortunately there are not to my knowledge any books with his artwork that are affordable. The picture book: Charles Dellschau (MARQUAND BOOKS/) Hardcover by Thomas McEvilley (Link) is available on Amazon starting at $399.99.

The video below provides an excellent look at one of his drawings.

In 1969 She Found This Arcane Scrapbook In A Junk Shop The Secrets That Lay Inside Astonishing

Video from watchJojo

"As Mary Jane Victor explores Houston’s O.K. Trading Center, one of the art history student’s regular haunts, her eyes fall on something small and ragged. She picks up the small leather object and realizes that this is no ordinary scrapbook. Indeed, on opening the first page, the kaleidoscope of esoteric symbols, newspaper clippings and paintings of curious flying machines tell of a mystery that, almost half a century later, is yet to be unraveled.The year was 1969, and though psychedelia had already permeated the popular consciousness, Victor had likely never seen anything like these colorful illustrations before. So, sensing the greatness of her discovery, she rushed straight to her employer, Dominique de Menil.De Menil, Rice University’s art director and herself a patron of art, had a passion for surrealist works. It’s no surprise, then, that she found the contents of the book mouthwatering. So much so, in fact, that she parted with $1,500 for the scrapbook and three others like it." from video introduction

"Flying Machines (4575: Broad Cutt/4576: Vogel)" by Charles A. A. Dellschau, ca. 1920

"This video includes the Museum audio-tour description of "Flying Machines (4575: Broad Cutt/4576: Vogel)" by Charles A. A. Dellschau, ca. 1920. "Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum" can be seen at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, October 10, 2015 through January 3, 2016. "Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum" is organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York. The exhibition and national tour are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative." from video introduction

Part 2 will look into the possibility that the Sonora Aero Club might have been real!

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