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Interview given to John Fox by Mr. Aubrey Swaim, 222 Texas, Pittsburg,
Texas, Septemper 2, 1967. - ------
As best I remember from 1898 to 1901 was the time of the construction
of the Ezekial air ship in Pittsburg, Texas by Mr. Cannon.
He was a Baptist preacher and he had an assistant in Pittsburg named
\Sll t·. 1':.. , I..
~ Stamps. Mr. Stamps was the man who did the construction of
the engine and all the parts. Mr. Cannon read the Bible and gave him
instrustion from the book of Ezekial. They constructed it according
to Mr. Cannon's version of Ezekial, but it wouldn ' t fly. Mr. Stamps
suggested to him that he make an engine instead of all cast iron,
put other alloys in the metal and mold the engine that would be
at least 50% in weight, reduce the weight 50% and at the same time
stand a great amount of heat than ordinary cast iron would stand.
Mr. Cannon refused to do these things because Ezekial didn't say
to do it that way. During the time of the construction when they
had it almost complete, Mr. Orville Wright had heard about it and
came down to view it and see what it was . He was working on a
similar project of an airplane. Mr. Stamps explained to him what
he thought it would take to make it fly. Mr. Ivright went back to
Kittyhawk and embodied those plans in his plan of an airplane and
Do you remember the year that Mr. Wright came down?
It was 1900.
He came in by train?
Oh, yes, that was the only way of travel at that time. Mr. Cannon got
his airShip running at full speed as it was supposed to do and they
coasted down a field and the best they could do was to make the plane
hop, skip and jump three feet off the ground.
About how long were the hops?
20 to 30 feet. That is the best it would do.
Mr. Cannon got some. people in St . Louis interested and they were going
to back him in the rnvelopment of that airplane. So he loaded the airplane
on a flat car and tied it down and was shipping it to St. Louis .
The train got somewhere up in Arkansas and ran into a hurricane, blew
the plane off the flat car and tore it all to pieces. And that ~as the
last of Mr. Cannon' s airplane.
You were actually present when the plane tried to fly?
Yes, I saw it. Oh, yes!
About what was the wing span?
Well, the wing spans were entirely different from what Wright developed.
They were not over 8 or 10 feet--just two wings, one on each side, about
8 or 10 feet wide. The wing's lifting and propelling power was to be
vlithin what he called "a wheel within a wheel" . It was a wheel that
revolved one way and within it was a wheel with paddles on it revolving
the opposite direction, which was supposed to lift it.
It didn't use propellers?
It didn't have a propeller at all. And that's what Mr . Stamps insisted
on Mr. Cannon doing--putting a propeller on it. And he so told Orville
Wright. Wright goes back and makes a plane of that kind. Now I'm not
trying to say anything, to diminish the fact, that Mr. Wright was the
first (Wright Brothers) to make an airplane. The I'lright Brothers were
smart enough to accept a suggestion from a mechanic they had never met
who knew as much about those kind of things as any other living man at
Mr. Stamps! He was a regular mechanic and the plane that Mr. Cannon
attempted to build, and did build, was at the Pittsburg foundry, that
was owned by Mr. P. W. Thorsel~.
This is the same building?
••• and the attempt to fly was in a pasture directly west of the ___ fQundry,
where the machine was constructed.
This is the same building that is still standing?
Yes, the building is still standing down there now and it was constructed
in the upper story of this building and they went ahead and constructed
it and got it practically in shape and then they realized they couldn't
get it out of there--only by tearing out the side of the brick building.
So they did and moved the plane out on the ground.
By block and tackle, I suppose?
Yes, I suppose so. I was there and time and time again I would go down
there and watch Mr. Stamps work on this plane, and I was present whe~~"
tried to make it fly. Now, Mr. Stamps was the one who was on the plane
trying to make it fly.
He was pilot?
Yes, there was only one seat for one man and, of course, that was just
sitting up in the open. They didn't have any windshield or anything to
protect them from the wind. And, of course, it was in the middle of the
plane. The levers were beside him--all the things to make it operate---
the machinery, the wings - ~nd the engine.
The wings had adjustable flaps, didn't they?
No, no. They were made out of very thin wood--you'd call it, this day and
time, ply wood. But made out of ash and other woods that were strong.
Were the wheels ,~ood or metal?
The rims of the wheels were metal. They were just little bitty strips
of steel. And not any larger than your finger.
Swaim: No, no, they were round. They run around this way. And on the inside
they had another wheel that was like this---with paddles on it and
revolved the other Way. Each one of 'em were reversible, like if you
want to make it rise, go straight up, you'd do so and so but if you
wanted it to go forward, you'd turn a lever and the paddles would push
forward. They would turn at such an angle, and if you wanted to go
forward, it would push against the Wind, you see. Now, if you wanted
to go up, these paddles straightened out, and you pushed vertical with
the \~ind . They had no way to figure how it would rise unless they went
into the wind, and even airplanes today--they don't take off with the
wind. They take off into the wind.
Fox: It had no trouble moving along the ground?
Swaim: Oh, no! It would move itself.
Fox: About what speed would it attain?
Swainr. Oh, I don't know--I imagine about 40 or 50 miles an hour. But that was
only for a short time.
Fox: Did they just make one run?
',,-- ..... ,.--..• --------
Swa in\: No, they made two or three runs. But all the runs they made turned out to
be about the same. They just couldn't just make it get off the ground •••
not ,to amount to anything. They just didn't have the power to pull against
the wind. That's the reason why it was suggested that the propeller system
be used with a stronger engine that would make a stronger pull against the
wind. And Mr. Cannon wouldn't admit to trying to do a thing like that because
he said that it didn ' t say so in the book of Ezekial. His belief in the
book of Ezekial was what made him start it and too much belief in the book
of Ezekial 'las what made him make a failure of it. He didn't really make
a failure; he just didn't make it good enough to make it work.
Fox: What part did Rm,f:Lockett play in building of the plane?
Row Lockett was a helper to Mr. Barl Stamps. Now, he was just a helper.
Mr. Burl Stamps was the mechanic.
About when did he die?
Burl Stamps? Well, he died about four years ago. He lived at Gilmer, Texas
at the time that he died.
Was he a young man back at that time?
Yes, because he had lived a long time when he died. I don't remember how
old he was but he was fairly old.
Do you know whether the family Rept the plans for the plane? The Stamps
The Stamp family didn't have the plans. That was 11r. Cannon's business.
They never did have any blue prints of the plane---I never heard of it.
They might have had but I never heard of it. Now, the picture shown on
the stock certificate is just about as good a plan as you could get of it.
If you look at the picture that is on the stock certificate, it will give
you practically everything you want to know. About how it looked and how
it was equipped.
Is this an accurate representation?
Yes, it is. Just exactly like it. Because the picture was taken from the
The plane was already built when the company was formed?
Oh, no. Well, the plane was practically built, I guess, when the company
About when was the company formed?
I think it was about around 1901.
Do you know about what time of the year?
No, I don't.
Fox: The picture--did }~. Cannon take the picture?
Swain.\: Oh, no. He had a photographer to take the picture.
Fox: Do you know who the photographer was?
Swain: No, I wouldn't know at that time.
Fox: Did he photograph the plane and then make a drawing from that?
Swain.\: Yes, and then had it printed on the stock certificates.
Fox: What time of the year did the plane attempt to fly?
Swaim I wouldn't remember that.
Fox: Warm weather?
Swain): Oh, yes. It wouldn't have been practical in any other kind of weather.
You had to have good weather.
Fox: About what time of the day was it--morning, afternoon?
Swain): Well, they tried it in the afternoon.
Fox: Did they announce beforehand when they were going to try it?
Swa in>; No, they just went out and tried it . I don't suppose there were over a
half dozen people there that saw it try to fly . Now, if they had made a
success of making it fly, then they would have had a big crowd down there
for its real first flight . These flights here were only test flights,
don't you see? They didn't consider any publicity to it at all. But if
they had made it get off the ground for an appreciable distance, then
they would have invited the public and the stockholders to come down and
view it for publicity purposes. And to get more backing for the development
of it. All they ever did was just test it.
Fox: How did you happen to be there?
Swain>; Oh, I was just a little kid, around 9 or 10 years old, and it was interesting
to me and I just used to go down there and just watch them.
Fox: You were just there when they happened to do it. Could you think of someone
else who was there who is now alive?
I don't know of anybody that is still alive that was there. I don't
claim to be the only one who ever saw it, but I just don't remember who
was there at that time. But there wasn't very many there ••• not over
8 or 10, and they were just happened so.
Were there very many children like yourself?
About how long was the plane, front to back?
Well, it was wider than it was long. The wings and things extended out
over a longer distance than front to rear.
Was it a bi-plane or could it be classified as such?
Well, it only had one wing on each side of it. They were made so you
could fold 'em up like a folding fan---you could close 'em up like you
do a fan. Then when they go to use it, make it fly, they spread 'em out
and locked 'em.
The folding was just for storage, then?
Do you remember anything about the controls of the plane?
No, I don't remember anything about that at all.
Was it a one cylinder gas engine?
Just levers and gears.
No, I believe it had two cylinders, as well as I remember.
And it was a gas engine?
Was it already bought or did Mr. Stamps make it?
No, Mr. Stamps made it himself.
His own design?
Yes. I really believe that if Mr. Cannon, in the first place, had listened
to ¥~. Stamps, he would have had the first airplane. But he wouldn't listen
to Mr. Stamps.
He just planned it. He didn't do any of the actual construction?
No. Not any more so than just a helper, Mr. Cannon didn't. Burl
Stamps is the man who really constructed it, you see.
Would you say it was mainly wood, you think?
Well, the frame work of it was metal and the wings were made out of
light, durable wood and covered with canvas. It was what we call today
shellacked ••• to give 'em strength, you see. Just conunon, ordinary
Now that's about all I remember about it.
Well, it's been a great help. No one else that I've found yet has had
so many details and I sure appreciate it, your talking with me.
That's all right. Glad to do it.
This was an interview given to John Fox on September 2, 1967 between
1:00 and 2:00 in the afternoon at the residence of ~~. Aubrey Swa~
with whom the interview was conducted at 222 Texas in Pittsburg, Texas.
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