NYMZA Aeros – The Airships of the 1850’s
- May 15, 2015
by Jimmy Ward & Pete Navarro
Have you heard of Schultz’ Hydrowhir Auto, also known as the “Cripel
Wagon”? If not, perhaps you have heard or read somewhere about
Peter Mennis’ “Aero Goosey”? How about Schoetler’s “Aero Dora”,
which was built in 1858 and was destroyed in a fire which consumed
the town of Columbia, California that same year? Chances are you
never heard or read about any of the above or the many other
“Aeros’, or aircraft that were designed and actually built and flown
by members of the Sonora Aero Club around the middle of the last
century in California.
These aircraft were navigable airships, designed and built at a time
when the only means of flight was the aerial balloon, which lacked
maneuverability and was subject to the whims of the wind.
According to C.A.A. Dellschau, a member of the Sonora Aero Club who
kept a secret record of all their activities and experiments which
they carried out in the vicinity of Sonora and Columbia, California
during the years 1850 to 1858, several of their airship designs were
built and flight-tested in the area which is now an airfield just
outside of the town of Columbia. It is conceivable that these
aircraft may have flown over the region as far as the giant redwoods
area of California for Dellschau states that one of their airships
became accidentally entangled in the branches of a giant California
redwood, resulting in the death of its pilot, who fell from the Aero
and broke his neck.
Dellschau referred to this aircraft model as a “flying trap”,
perhaps because it contained a device that was hung underneath the
carriage of the airship and served as a “ballancier”. However, this
device was dangerous, as it could easily get caught upon any tall
tree or obstacle close to the ground.
It is very possible that these aircraft were the progenitors of the
Mystery Airships that were observed flying over Oakland and other
points in California and in the Southwestern part of the country in
What leads me to believe that there was connection between these
aeros and the Mystery Airships is the fact that, although Dellschau
was an avid collector of news stories dealing with airships or
anything aeronautical; not ONE item concerning the Mystery Airship
sightings is to be found among his collection. Cout it be that he
was reluctant to show any connection because of the fear of
divulging matters of secret trust?
In one of his books the name WILSON is mentioned, and alludes to
Wilson and his CREW. Anyone who has read of the stories that
appeared in the newspapers of the 1890’s is probably well acquainted
with this name, for it is the name of the pilot of one of these
Mystery Airships, and it is very possible that Dellschau was
acquainted with him and his crew. But why all the secrecy?
It may be said here that members of the Sonora Aero Club were also
adjoined to a secret organization or society known only by the
initials N-Y-M-Z-A, which oversaw the workings of all its junior
members. They were all subject to strict obedience of the rules
imposed by this Secret Society and the divulging of its secret
operations was not permitted. It was for this very reason that
Dellschau kept all this to himself and eventually, when he finally
decided to write about it he did it secretly, and this in code and
in cryptograms and symbols, which only those with the patience and
willingness to spend time in deciphering his writings would be able
to read it and know what had been accomplished by them.
Strangely enough, I (Jerry) know a lady technical representative
who is based out of Hollywood, Florida. In December of 1991, I
was telling her about the Aeros and the mysterious substance
known as N.B. or “float” gas. She was much interested and told
me that her late grandfather was a member of some super-secret
group which had secret meetings and seemed to have contacts
She said that as a little girl, she had lived with her
grandfather for one summer. He had a huge library with all
sorts of strange books, some in a code type of language. She
was not allowed entry into the library or certain rooms of the
When asking her father about what her grandfather was involved
with, he told her that his father was a member of what he
claimed was a very secret and very ancient group. This group
was several hundred years ahead of mankind and members were
sworn to secrecy under threat of death.
The lady also told me that when her grandfather died, men showed
up at his house with signed papers giving them the right to
remove whatever they felt was necessary. The men took the
majority of his library and all his private papers. They also
took what was in the rooms she was forbidden to enter as a
Her father was also forbidden to pursue the matter although he
also spied on his father when he was young. The mysterious men
also collected the majority of the grandfather’s inheritance
which was bequeathed to the group. This might possibly give us
a clue since there must be records as to WHO received the
inheritance, either a person or a group. That in turn would
give us a further name to look into.
The grandfather was a strict vegetarian and had very precise and
detailed habits which he believed had allowed him to live to his
ripe 70’s, yet he looked like a man in his late 40’s. She also
said he would walk in the grass early every morning and said
that the dew was very beneficial to life.
I have asked her for specific names and any other information
she could gather relating to her grandfather, specifically a
newspaper article she was sent about 2 years ago. She promised
to find it and make me a copy. This could lead to something if
such a group exists in fact.
I asked her if the group might have been either Rosicrucian or
of a magical nature and she said, no, that it was very
scientific and dealt heavily with music. Her grandfather owned
and operated a school of music in which he got heavily involved
after joining the group. Prior to that, music was not his means
Also, as to the name NYMZA, Jimmy and Pete say that these German
immigrants might have used either German or a combination of
German and English. Since they were based in the East, it would
follow that NY would equal New York, M could equal Mechanical, Z
could very well equal the German word Zephyr (meaning wind from
the west), and A could mean Association.
So we have the term, New York Mechanical Zephyr Association, or
NYMZA, indicating mechanical flying devices from the west, as
would be seen through a European (eastern) viewpoint. Just an
attempt to derive a logical name, might be incorrect.
The tragic case of Jacob Mischer and his Aero will serve to point to
the severity with which the rules of this secret society known as
NYMZA were enforced.
Jacob Mischer was the designer and builder of a rather large, or
medium-sized aircraft which was called the “Aero Flyerless Gander”.
This airship was flown on a hundred mile trip and was successfully
landed on land and on water, for it had wheels as well as pontoons.
Jacob Mischer, however, met a most unfortunate end, for he became
greedy and desired to make a profit from his invention, intending to
use it for hauling material and equipment for the miners in the
area. This was looked upon by the headmasters of the secret society
as being strictly against the rules and, one way or another, Jacob
Mischer ended up dead when his ship was destroyed in a blinding
aerial explosion. Dellschau alludes to this incident as something
that was deliberate and NOT accidental.
The most successful of their aircraft, and probably the first to be
flown was Peter Mennis’ “Aero Goosey”, which was built in 1857 and
set the precendent for all subsequent Aero designs and, although
modifications were gradually added to new Aero designs, the Aero
Goosey continued to be flown as originally designed with only minor
changes and was the aircraft favored mostly by Peter Mennis for
Peter Mennis ranged far and wide on several occasions, but he was
able to land and use his Aero as a place to spend the night, for it
was equipped with a canvas conver which served as a tent.
The original “Aero Goosey” was a small craft with a basket-type
affair in which the pilot and passengers sat at the bow and stern
ends of the airship. It carried a liquid fuel container in the
center of the craft and a gas converter under the seats. Attached
to the center pole was the air-pressure motor which was used to
propel the airship, and two gas bags were on the sides. It was a
very simply designed airship, and, despite all modifications and
improvements that were made upon this original model and its “motor”
design, the mode of operation and function of its internal workings
remained basically the same in all subsequent models with the
exception of size and appearance and the addition of useful
conveniences such as galleys, toilets, beds, tables, and other
gimcracks of one kind or another.
Louis Caro, another member of the Sonora Aero Club expressed it very
well when he said that he and his colleagues agreed on one thing;
and that was the fact that they all longed for an airship design
which would have all the features of the Aero Goosey, but be larger
and yet be safe. Several very large models were designed toward
this end and proposed but were never built. There were, however,
several medium-sized models which were actually built, and flown.
One of these was the “Aero Dora”, which was another of the most
favorable designs. This Aero was first envisioned by Ernest Kraus
and was later elaborated upon by several other members of the club
who were very pleased with its appearance and function and used it
as a basis upon which to apply their own ideas.
The Aero Dora was equipped with a “sucker-kicker”, which was a
device for compressing air and operated very much like a JET for
propulsion. Yes, several of these Aeros had devices that were years
ahead of their times, and included up to date contrivances such as
retractable landing gear, shock absorbers, gas converters, spot-
lights, and many other novel ideas for their time, for one must take
into consideration that these were entirely new concepts, or
designs, with absolutely no precendent to go by, and it is for this
reason that some of the aircraft look so fantastically monstrous and
absolutely unfeasable as aeronautical machines. In other words,
none of them look like they could even BEGIN to get off the ground,
much less fly!
This was no problem for them though, for they possessed a formula
for producing a SPECIAL GAS, called “NB” gas, which was capable of
lifting the most ponderous construction with a minimum of gas. The
gas was produced on board the aircraft and carried in one or several
gas bags on top or on the sides of the airship. Marthin Karo, one
of the members of the Club and inventor of a “hood” for carrying
excess gas referred to this lifting agent as “FLOAT”, which is a
good description of its function.
George Newell was the inventor of a “gas motor” called “VOLTA” which
produced the “Lift Power” used on most of the airships. This was a
modified version of earlier gas motor designs or “converters” which
were used in earlier Aero models.
As for the Cripel Wagon…this was actually a wheeled land vehicle
designed in 1837 by Friderich Schultz but was adapted in 1857 for
use as an airship by August Schoetler with the addition of gas bags
and “air squeezers” which made the vehicle airborne, converting it
into an airship with hydrowheels (wheels with water inside instead
of air). “Air squeezers” were similar to “sucker kickers” and
consisted of a tube through which air was compressed and ejected
(similar to a jet engine).
The “Aero Buster” was an airship that was built but never flown. It
was designed and built by Max Miser and was equipped with a
parachute-like device. Before it was completed Max Miser remarked
that if his Aero ever got off the ground he would not want anybody
going up in it but him. “I am enough to break my neck”, he said.
The Aero was completed except for the installation of the power
chamber and the fuel which only Peter Mennis could provide, since he
was the only one who knew the secret formula for producing it.
However, for some unkown reason, Peter Mennis refused to provide the
fuel or help Miser with the construction of the gas producing
chamber and consequently this aircraft was never able to get off the
ground. Many years later (in 1912) Dellschau would reminisce about
this incident and would remark on whether gasoline would have
“filled the bill” and would have made it possible for this airship
to fly. Of course, gasoline had not been discovered yet.
Of the more than one hundred airship designs in Dellschau’s books
probably not more than eight or ten were actually built and flown.
And they were a howling success!
Why they didn’t announce it to the world and reap their share of
profits and fame from their efforts is strange indeed. Could it be
that they were only conducting tests for others to follow? It is
only too clear that NYMZA was a very strict organization and that
any member who disregarded the rules of this secret society usually
PAID WITH HIS LIFE.
Dellschau faced the same threat to his life and it is believed that
he may have died a violent death, although this is strictly
conjecture. The fact is that Dellschau died in the year 1923 at the
age of 93 and was buried in Washington Cemetery in Houston, Texas.
He left behind a dozen large volumes in which he told many things
about their activities in California, but he never would say WHAT
NYMZA WAS, nor what the initials stood for, except to say that it
was work being done FOR THIS ORGANIZATION. Thus NYMZA remains a
mystery to all except to those who may read this and KNOW its
significance, for there may still be members of this society who
will continue to keep their vows of secrecy and may still be working
on yet other clandestine projects. You may very well ask; What
experiments could they (the present members of NYMZA) be engaged in
today? The spaceships of the 1990’s? Who Knows?
P. G. Navarro