charles a.a. dellschau

︎Artist, Painting   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

In 1899, Charles August Dellschau began documenting the ideas of a covert aeronautics club with a fascination for mysterious flying machines. His vast diary of watercolour inventions were found some years later under a pile of disgarded carpet.

Charles August Dellschau began his first visual diary of expressive watercolour imagery and newspaper clippings (or Press Blooms as he called them) of then-current news articles about aeronautical advancements and disasters.
Over a period of twenty one years, he would collate his esoteric interests into around twelve handmade journals, documenting the strange technologies that dominated the thoughts of both Dellschau and the alleged secret association of American engineers and philosophers with whom he was supposedly connected.

NYMZA, believed to be a pseudonym, or larger organisation of the Sonora Aero Club, operating from California, was occupied by the ideas of navigable 'Aeros' or aircraft, in a time where the most advanced aerial technology was the balloon. Dellschau, a member of the Sonora Aero Club, through his secret records, depicted a codified schema, highlighting that during the years of 1850 - 1858, several of the Aeros were designed and tested around the area which is now an airfield outside the town of Columbia.

One of the members had also purportedly discovered the formula for an anti-gravity fuel, which he named 'NB Gas'. Their mission was to design and build the first navigable aircraft using the NB Gas for lift and propulsion. Dellschau did not claim to be a pilot of any of the airships; he did however, identify himself as a draftsman for the Sonora Aero Club.

“...Sonora Aero Club was a branch of a larger secret society known only as NYMZA.”

"Despite exhaustive research, including searches of census records, voting rosters, and death records, nothing has been found to substantiate the existence of this group except for a few gravestones in the Columbia Cemetery where several of the surnames are found. It is speculated that, like the voluminous "Realms of the Unreal" notebooks by outsider artist Henry Darger (1882-1973), the Sonora Aero Club is a fiction by Dellschau. However, according to UFO writer Pete Navarro, a coded story is hidden throughout the drawings, which he interprets to mean that the Sonora Aero Club was a branch of a larger secret society known only as NYMZA."

Peter Navarro, a UFO investigator and extensive researcher of Dellschau, offered many hypotheses as to the meaning of NYMZA based on the watercolours of Dellschau that contained the encryptions and the coded equation DM = XØ. They have postulated that it could be a reference to Peter Mennis, 'the man with the technology', who is said to have invented the first aeroplane, 'Aero Goosey' (1857) - a record often attributed to the Wirght brothers’ “first sustained flight” in 1903.
Another possible meaning of the acronym NYMZA, through Egyptian, Greek, Latin and German appropriation, points to the meaning of 'Those Who Are Not Named'. This is derived from the Egyptian NYM, meaning 'name' and ZA 'to take' or ZAHN 'tooth' in German, relating to the action of chewing and ‘consuming information’.

Dellschau, a former butcher, originally born in Brandenberg, is regarded as one of America's earliest visionary artists. His work has been interpreted as a testimony to the sense of optimism that new technologies inspire as they change the way people see the world. Flight, up until that time, had been a metaphor for man's pathos - or his inability to accomplish what he was not meant to.

The journals and watercolours were stored in the attic of a relative's home, where Dellschau made most of his documentation. They were kept there until as late as 1960, afterwhich the house burned down, destroying large segments of the works. Subsequently the majority of the body of work was eventually found in a landfill site in Houston, Texas, where it is unknown who salvaged them. The drawings then found their way into the hands of furniture dealer, Fred Washington, who took them to his warehouse where they ended up under a pile of discarded carpets.

Whether you have a taste for conspiracy theories, or a distrust of the modern applications of spiritual and modern technological blends, they are nevertheless indications of the human desire to break away from the boundaries of what is considered possible by over-rationalising within the context of public understanding. The recent Pentagon UFO report of aircrafts with unknown ‘advanced technology’ is testament to this.

CG Jung for example, along with later interpretations by Terence McKenna, believed that the UFO was a mental phenomena, a projection of the human mind's effort to communicate with nature directly through technology, but a kind of technology anathema to the overbearing dislocations that modern science produces between ourselves and nature; that we are alone within the cosmos, and that nature is a kind of artefact without consciousness. For McKenna, this alien intelligence was nature itself, to be communicated with through the technology of language, often induced by psychedelic states of perception. For Dellschau it might have been through the exploration of the sky, an idea originally within the realms of the unimaginable.

In the next 100 years, what kinds of journals that map the potential of new technologies such as telepathy (a kind of psychological flying through cyberspace), will find their way into charity shops inbetween pieces of discarded carpet. Or how many technological advancements have already emerged from the fringes of socieity’s liminal realms. In the future, is the pathos of our own society to resurface as the flight of fancy in the mind of a techno-mystic, looking backwards in an attempt to rediscover the future of flight?

Further Reading ︎
Artist website
NYMZA AEROS, The Airships of the 1850's, Article
NB Gas, Article
Houston Press, Article
In depth book on the work of Dellschau, PDF