Carl Fisher's Air Ship

The attached article originally appeared in the January 24, 1906 Indianapolis News. It reports on one of Indianapolis' leading businessmen at the time, Carl Fisher, and his decision to purchase what was commonly called an "air ship." The motorized dirigible, described as cigar-shaped and 79 feet long with a 17 x 9 foot diameter and 70,000 cubic feet of capacity for hydrogen gas, was scheduled to arrive within the following six weeks. It was powered by a four-cylinder Indianapolis-built engine twirling propellers described as "much like that on a ship." It could lift, in addition to the pilot and engine, 50 pounds of ballast. The estimated cost of the hydrogen gas alone was $3,000.
"Before the passing of the coming summer I will have taken trips over Indianapolis in my new airship. Airships are no longer doubtful propositions. Knabenshue and others sailed all around New York last summer, while successful demonstrations were given at the World's Fair at St. Louis," Fisher is quoted in the article.
Fisher was referring to Roy Knabenshue, who managed the Wright Brothers entertainment company. The Wrights were major players in what remains the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's only airshow which took place in June 1910. IMS also hosted national championship balloon races in June 1909 and September 1910. Fisher, an avid balloonist, competed in both the balloon contests.
Fisher purchased the airship while visiting the New York Automobile Show but the craft was the product of Indianapolis-based Leo Stevens & Company. The plan was to store the vessel in a large barn north of Indianapolis and conduct "a large number of experiments" to insure it was safe for people to ascend in it. Bags of sand were to be used to simulate human weight with the ship tethered to Earth by long cables.
It's not clear to me that Fisher ever used the ship. He did not obtain his balloonist's lisence until shortly before the 1909 national championship contest. A photo of the ship on display at the New York Auto Show supported the article in the newspaper.

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