The Wright brothers had the first successful flying machine or maybe they just knew how to work the media. If you ask residents of northeast Texas, they will say Rev. Burrell Cannon had the first successful flight of an air machine.
It was a Sunday morning in late 1902 in Pittsburg, TX when the Ezekiel Airship rose 12 feet above a pasture and flew approximately 160 feet, as reported by an eye witness. After the flight, Cannon planned to take the airship to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair; the organizers promised $100,000 to anyone making a “sustained, controlled flight” at the fair. While traveling, the airship was destroyed during a storm in Texarkana. A replacement was never built and no original plans or records have been found.
This has not stopped the residents of Pittsburg from believing Cannon had the first successful flight. In the late 1980s, the Pittsburg Optimist Club and local craftsman Bob Lowery built a replica of the Ezekiel Airship. All the crew had to go by was one surviving photograph. Today the airship is housed in the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum.
Weighing in at approximately 2,000 pounds (the original is believed to have weighed about 400 pounds) it is a sight to behold. Hanging from the ceiling it is easy to see the wheel within the wheel design. Both Cannon’s design and inspiration, as well as the name, came from the Book of Ezekiel.
Whether the airship flew or not has been lost to time. What is available is the replica showing just how much time and craftsmanship must have gone into the original airship.