Prussia, 1830 – 1923
Born in Prussia in 1830, Dellschau worked as a butcher before moving to the United States in 1849. He lived in Galveston, Texas, Sonora, California, and eventually settled in Houston, Texas. Just before retiring from his work as a salesman in a Houston saddle shop in 1900, Dellschau began work on a memoir recounting what he claimed to be his adventures in California, completing it in 1903. Working alone in a family member’s attic, he began work on the first manuscript of what would be a 12-volume series. Evoking a steam-era adventure aesthetic reminiscent of Jules Verne, this epic narrative follows his alleged adventures as a member of a secret society called the Sonora Aero Club, a group of maverick inventors engaged in designing and flying airships propelled by a mysterious, anti-gravity gas. Most double-sided pages of Dellschau’s manuscripts contain an exquisitely painted airship bounded by patterned framing devices, accompanied by often illegible text and coded messages, and also by collated newspaper clippings providing news of flight technology. Dellschau’s status as one of the preeminent outsider artists owes to his entire production, including his use of 19th century literary strategies such as the use of code, which continues to baffle scholars intent on proving the existence of the Dellschau’s airships.