Dickerman’s Flying Machine – 1897
The following story appeared in The Abbeville Press And Banner, a defunct newspaper from Abbeville, South Carolina, (1869 – 1924). It reportedly happened to a farmer named Dickerman from Woodbridge, Connecticut. The farmer’s first name was not stated, and validity of this tale is left to the discretion of the reader.
Besides being a farmer, Mr. Dickerman was also an inventor of air ships. “A few years ago,” the article read in part, “his attempt to navigate a machine he had built to fly resulted in injuries to the inventor that laid him up for six weeks with a broken limb.”
Yet apparently Mr. Dickerman was undaunted by his mishap and decided to try again.
In May of 1897, Dickerman allegedly bought a “wagon body and an electric battery storage system”. The batteries were to power an electric motor, which would power an air compressor, that was supposed to shoot a powerful steady stream of compressed air into a canvas umbrella rigged above the wagon. The flow of compressed air would supposedly keep the entire contraption suspended in mid-air – at least as long as the batteries held out. The compressed air would also drive two side wheels made of discarded windmill blades which would serve to propel the flying machine forward.
The article explained; “Dickerman bought up all the windmill arms he could find and attached them to the outside of the wagon body, which he had propped up on the top of his barn. Cog wheels connected to the shaft of each with a rod that was to be turned by means of the electric motor.”
It was stated that Mr. Dickerman planned to fly his invention all the way to Cuba which he estimated would take less than a day, but he’d provisioned his wagon with enough food stores to last a week. Among his provisions were a can-opener and a feather pillow.
The reason for Mr. Dickerman’s Cuba destination was to assist that country in its war for independence – a war which had begun in 1895. (This conflict later became the Spanish-American War for the United States with the sinking of the Battleship Maine in 1898.)
To get his invention ready for its inaugural flight Mr. Dickerman, with the help of a hired-hand identified only as “Mike”, and “half a dozen of Dickerman’s cronies”, somehow got the flying machine atop the roof of his barn. Then Mr. Dickerman climbed in and sat in a rocking chair he’d installed so that he’d be comfortable during his voyage, and then started the motor. After giving the signal, “Mike” and the “cronies” gave the craft a mighty shove and Dickerman’s air ship sailed off the edge of the roof with predictable results.
The article ended with, “Dickerman is at present under the doctor’s care. His faith in his invention still lives, and he says he will yet fly.”
Authors note: No accounts of this alleged incident appeared in Woodbridge area newspapers.
The Abbeville Press And Banner, (Abeville, South Carolina), “Modern Darius Green” – “A Foolish Connecticut Farmer And His Flying Machine” April 21, 1897