Texan flies in first airship?

September 20th, 1865

On this day in 1865, pioneer aviator Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck may have made the first flight in an airplane--almost forty years before the Wright brothers--in a field about three miles east of Luckenbach. The Württemberg native settled in Fredericksburg in 1847. He had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing; in Germany he had attempted to build a self-winding clock, and in 1869 he designed an ice-making machine. His most cherished project, however, was his "air-ship," with a propeller powered by coiled springs. The 1865 model featured an enclosed space for the "aeronaut," a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer. The machine was said to have risen twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground. Another account, however, says that the initial flight took place in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck was later placed. Yet another account reports that the flight took place in 1868, not 1865. All the accounts agree, however, that Brodbeck's airship was destroyed by its abrupt landing, although the inventor escaped serious injury. After this setback, his investors refused to put up the money for a second attempt, and he embarked on a unsuccessful fund-raising tour of the United States. Brodbeck returned to Texas and lived on a ranch near Luckenbach until his death in 1910.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

Share this article

Share the Texas Day by Day

Get a Piece of Texas History in Your Inbox

With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
Get your Texas Day by Day delivered straight to your inbox:

Calendar

Archive

  • Discover what happened on any date in Texas History.

  • View Now!

Send an eCard

Personalize a piece of Texas history. Share a Day by Day article with friends.

eCard image Send Now

Become a TSHA Member

Get insider access to the most exclusive Texas history club in the nation.

tsha logo Join Today!

Archive

  • Discover what happened on any date in Texas History.

  • View Now!

Send an eCard

Personalize a piece of Texas history. Share a Day by Day article with friends.

eCard image Send Now

Become a TSHA Member

Get insider access to the most exclusive Texas history club in the nation.

tsha logo Join Today!

Texan flies in first airship?

September 20th, 1865

On this day in 1865, pioneer aviator Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck may have made the first flight in an airplane--almost forty years before the Wright brothers--in a field about three miles east of Luckenbach. The Württemberg native settled in Fredericksburg in 1847. He had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing; in Germany he had attempted to build a self-winding clock, and in 1869 he designed an ice-making machine. His most cherished project, however, was his "air-ship," with a propeller powered by coiled springs. The 1865 model featured an enclosed space for the "aeronaut," a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer. The machine was said to have risen twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground. Another account, however, says that the initial flight took place in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck was later placed. Yet another account reports that the flight took place in 1868, not 1865. All the accounts agree, however, that Brodbeck's airship was destroyed by its abrupt landing, although the inventor escaped serious injury. After this setback, his investors refused to put up the money for a second attempt, and he embarked on a unsuccessful fund-raising tour of the United States. Brodbeck returned to Texas and lived on a ranch near Luckenbach until his death in 1910.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

Share this article

Share the Texas Day by Day

Get a Piece of Texas History in Your Inbox

With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
Get your Texas Day by Day delivered straight to your inbox: