First, I stumble across a fellow who may have flown a heavier-than-air vehicle prior to -- though less controllably -- than the Wrights. In a twist right out of a Gothic novel, there's even a secret contract between Wright descendants and the Smithsonian, promising that institution will never accord others credit for the first flight!*
After that, my wander took a turn for the strange; in the late 1800s, the American West and Midwest saw a series of airship sightings, at a time when nobody was -- openly! -- in the airship business. It is widely reported in Ufologist publications but rarely gets more than cursory coverage, as it doesn't quite fit; the vehicles are cigar-shaped, for one thing, and the technology described is (in most cases) very much of the time.
Enter the notebooks of Charles August Albert Dellschau, self-proclaimed draughtsman of the Sonora Aero Club. Found in a town dump in Texas and drawn and painted in an exuberant "outsider" style, they seem to chronicle his involvement decades before with a reclusive group of early airship pioneers in Sonora, California. Of course, there's not a shred of evidence for it outside his books....that is, none if you don't count the reported sightings. Of course there's a book out now. Merely a little Fun With History? Time-blurred recollections of actual events? Harmless lunacy? Hey, I just link to it. Kinda reminds me of my own Hidden Frontier.
Which reminds me, there'll be an update soon at I Work On A Starship.
* In fairness to both parties, the contract appears intended to address the museum's shameful partisanship for Professor Langley over the Wright Brothers, even after they had succeeded while he failed. And I should point out the Wright Brothers well-established primacy in the understanding and implementation of controlled flight, from just-barely in the original Flyer to their later designs, moderns constructions of which are highly flyable. Their (early) competitors either lack or have only rudimentary control surfaces and linkages to allow the pilot to move them; after Kitty Hawk, word got 'round: suddenly everyone had learnt how to do things...the Wright way.
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