Charles August Albert Dellschau


was an artist obsessed with the early years of flight. From age seventy, when he retired from work as a butcher, and as a clerk in his stepdaughter’s saddlery inHouston, Texas, he wrote and illustrated
Reminiscences of Years Past of Time and a Way of Life Written and Illustrated in Idle Hours.
Dellschau created thousands of watercolor, gouache, pen-and-ink drawings, and newspaper collages, which he called “press blooms,” included in twelve large, hand- bound books. His art and accompanying text fused fantasy and reality.Born in Brandenburg, Prussia, the son of a master butcher, Dellschau immigrated to Texas in 1849, following Prussia’s social and economic revolution of 1848. Hetraveled to California between 1850 and 1860, and returned to Richmond, in Fort Bend County, Texas, around 1860, when he also became a United States citizen.Created in private and forgotten after his death at age ninety-three, Dellschau’s writings and drawings barely escaped the trash heap when an order from the firedepartment was issued in the 1960s to clear the
Dellschau house of all litter. Fred Washington, an antiques dealer, found the notebooks at the curb and took them to his OK Trading Center, where they werediscovered by an art student, Mary Jane Victor. She in turn brought them to the attention of the art patron Dominique de Menil, who purchased four of the books.The drawings, many of balloon-driven flying machines, and newspaper collages were numbered sequentially. The date the drawing was made, the date Dellschauclaimed the aero designs were proposed, and the name of the inventor were noted. The contraptions, fueled by a pink gas called
were depicted in flight as wellas on the ground, some with retractable landing gear, flaps, wheels, crew members, passengers, and others, with dining and sleeping quarters or safety features, such asa “Falleasy” device or a No Smoking sign.The designs were attributed to members of the Sonora Aero Club, organized in the 1850s. Names of members, dates, meeting places, and the activities of the secretclub are referred to in detail in Dellschau’s work. No evidence has been found, however, of the existence of the society, which was thought to meet regularly in Sonora,California, or of NYMZA, the financial backers of the club, from “back east.”
See also
Outsider Art
Baker-White, Tracy. “Flight or Fancy: The Secret Life of Charles A.A. Dellschau.”
Folk Art,
vol. 25 (fall 2000): 47–54.Redniss, Lauren. “Charles Dellschau.”
Raw Vision,
no. 30 (spring 2000): 42–49. ——.
Charles A.A.Dellschau 1830–1923: Aeronautical Notebooks.
New York, 1997.