This article was published in the daily newspaper The Chicago Times-Herald, Chicago, Illinois, Monday, April 12, 1897.
Warning: the airship stories must not be taken at face value as "UFO sightings." Evaluation of such stories is under way here.
SNAPSHOT OF AIR SHIP
PHOTOGRAPH OF THE MYSTERY
Walter McCann of Rogers Park Makes What Appears to Be a Genuine Picture of the Object That is Causing the World to Wonder.
Walter McCann of Rogers Park leaped into fame at a single bound yesterday. He has a photograph which shows an airship in the sky. He says he took it with his camera at 5:30 yesterday morning. He shows two negatives. Three witnesses assert that they saw him take the photographs.
The wonders of modern photography permit almost anything being done with the camera and all sorts of delusions can be accomplished. Experts, however, are usually able to detect what to borrow a phrase from the lexicon of the race course, might be termed "jockeying" with the negative or with the print itself.
The Times-Herald artist who made the pen and ink copy of the McCann photograph and the etcher both pronounce the photograph genuine.
PHOTOGRAPH APPARENTLY GENUINE
"The photograph is genuine," said the artist, "and it is a mighty fine piece of photographic work at that it would be impossible to "fix" a negative so as to have it so perfect in the picture. And besides, the color could be obtained in no other way then from an object taken in the air."
The etcher while waiting for the artist to finish his work satisfied himself more thoroughly of the genuineness of the photographs by applying some tests with acid. He applied acids to one of them, which was an album a print with the result of showing that the print had not been changed after leaving the negative.
"It is certainly a photograph of an object taken in the air," said the etcher, "it would have been possible to cut the film in the negative before the print was made, but then there would be plainly visible a white line wherever it had been cut, and there is no sign of any such here. With the other print, which is a bramble, it would be impossible to effect a change on the gray back ground that could not readily be detected. For their kind the photographs are remarkably fine, and there is no doubt they are genuine in every particular."
TAKING THE SNAPSHOT
McCann is a newsdealer at Rogers Park, and his place of business is near the Northwestern Railway tracks. It is his custom to arise early each morning, particularly on Sunday, to deliver the Chicago newspapers. In his store was a small camera, the property of his son. When McCann sighted the strange object in the sky he immediately suspected it was the airship which had so many people talking. He rushed into his store, seized the camera and got a good picture of it. G.A. Overocker, who saw the proceeding, suggested a second negative, and the result was a much better negative.
William Hoodless and E.L. Osborne, operator for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway at Rogers Park, saw McCann and Overocker at the hour named, and not only witnessed the photographing, but saw the ship itself.
It is, according to the statement of all these witnesses, an invention without wings or sails. All agree that the outlines of a man could be seen.
ROGERS PARK IN EXCITEMENT
The discovery was the talk of the suburb and the usual serenity of that vicinity was transformed into intense excitement. McCann's newsstand was thronged. People came from miles around. They flocked from Evanston, Edgewater, Ravenswood and even from Chicago. All kinds of theories were advanced. Some thought it was a collapsed balloon floating in the air. Others scouted this idea, because four citizens of undoubted veracity insisted that it was a creation such as they had never seen before. According to their story, the construction of the alleged air ship was different from the outlines in popular fancy. The upper portion was cigar shaped, with a propeller in the rear. The lower portion was composed of white metal, shaped like the keel of a ship. The witnesses were kept busy telling the multitude of what they saw. All day long the people asked questions and wondered. Then they went home talking about it. Some of them said it was a hoax. But the pictures were in evidence, and the sensation grew. So McCann and Overocker found themselves the two biggest men in Rogers Park for a day at least.
McCANN TELLS HIS STORY
Walter McCann told all about it at his store on Greenleaf Avenue.
"I had read for several days about the air ship," said he, "I laughed over it and was skeptical on the subject. This morning at 5:30 when I arose to attend to my usual work of receiving the newspapers from Chicago and making my deliveries for the day, I saw a strange looking object in the sky coming from the south. It looked like a big cigar. It came nearer, and I saw at a glance that it was not a balloon. Quick as a flash I realized it was the much talked of airship. My boy won a camera not long ago in a contest for getting subscribers to a paper. It was in the store, fifty feet from where I stood gazing at the object. I ran and got it as the thing approached. The sky was clear. The conditions were favorable for a photograph. A plate was ready. I ran to Greenleaf Avenue and Market Street and got a good shot at it. With G.A. Overocker, whose attention was attracted to it, I ran down the Northwestern tracks and we got a second picture a few minutes later."
"E.L. Osborne and William Hoodless also saw the air ship. I am no longer a skeptic. I distinctly saw the outlines of a man in the rear of the machine. He pulled a revolving rudder or some sort of contrivance which steered the course of the air ship. This strange invention came within 600 feet of the earth as I could estimate it."
DESCRIBES THE OBJECT IN THE AIR
"The lower portion of the air ship was thin, and made of some light white metal like aluminum. The upper portion was dark, and long like a big cigar, pointed in front and with some kind of arrangement in the rear to which cables were attached. The pilot pulled these and steered the course from south to northeast. We watched the flight of the air ship until it went east and disappeared from view. I returned to the store with the plates, attended to my morning papers, and, with Overocker, finished proofs as soon as possible. I refused an offer from a Chicago paper for the negatives. I think time will prove that this is no fake. I've lived here too long to try and fool people. I have no desire for notoriety. It's an air ship, and if you don't believe it, look at the picture and be convinced. I can swear that I saw the air ship. So can three other men here whose word stands well in this community.
"That's right," came a popular chorus of suburbanites near the counter, "McCann is all right."
"I saw him take the first picture," said G.A. Overocker, "and assisted him with the second. My attention was attracted to his excited conduct in Greenleaf Avenue at such an early hour, looking at the sky. I looked and got excited too. It's the airship, said he, Then I assisted in getting a second picture of it, and it's all there, too."
SEEN AGAIN LAST NIGHT
From various parts of the north side the strange aerial visitor was seen last night. Many people are willing to take oath that they saw it, and that it was not a star, comet, or anything of that nature. It appeared more like an arc electric light, changing color at times from white to red and green. Slowly it drifted across the sky, growing dim, disappearing and returning at intervals. Great crowds watched the mysterious light and marveled. At North Avenue and Larabee Street a group of reputable citizens watched it for nearly an hour from the roof of Herman Fry's drug store.
Among them were Herman Fry, George Fry, Dr. August Venn and Dr. E.G. Earle. They are all willing to swear the light was something they had never seen before, and could not account for. When they first noticed it the thing was over toward the northwest. It gradually drifted in their direction, and appeared to rise higher and higher, until it was lost to view. Desk Sergeant Hayes of the Larabee Street police station and Operator Berger also saw it.
At Clybourn and North Avenues Electrician A. Lamb and a crowd of people watched the light change from blue to red and then white. In the vicinity of the Sheffield Avenue police station the light was watched by many people, all of whom aver they have never before seen the like. At times the air ship, or whatever it is, appeared to be as close as 2,000 feet above the earth, but usually it was much higher.
And even the street car conductors and gripmen found time to observe the mysterious light flitting through the skies. Conductor Yost was in charge of the last cable train on the North Clark Street limits line last night and he reached the barn shortly before 1 o'clock this morning. On his car besides the gripman were half a dozen citizens and a policeman. The gripman was the first to observe the light, and for the remainder of the trip all eyes were centered on the mysterious thing, It was well off to the north seemingly just over Evanston, and skimming rapidly across the heavens.
A number of policemen and firemen in South Chicago and Englewood reported that they saw the mysterious object floating about in the air. They described it much in the same manner as others have done.