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Dr. Martin Braun’s Air Ship


Last summer, I found a page on eBay from the April 1887 issue of the popular science magazine “Scientific American.” The article on the page was titled “Braun's Electro-Dynamic Air Ship.” In September 1887, “The Manufacturer and Builder,” a monthly journal of industrial progress, published an article titled “Braun’s Aeroplane Balloon Ship.” These articles both described an “Air Ship” invented by one Dr. Martin Braun of Cape Vincent, NY.

When I first saw this article, I wondered if they were some kind of prank: an aeroplane balloon ship flying over the 1000 Islands? However, after a little research, I discovered that Dr. Braun had indeed held not just one, but two US patents related to air ships, which were already old technology at the time. Before 1860 there were 38 patents on some type of air ship. The first US patent for "Aerial Conveyances and Vessels" was filed in 1815 by Samuel John Pauly and Egg Durs.

In 1870, Dr. Martin Braun, a Cape Vincent surgeon, was granted a patent for “IMPROVEMENTS IN AERIAL SHIPS”. The two pages describing the invention were witnessed by Jno. H. Moore and H. J. Chevolin. The associated drawings were witnessed by L. Wailer and Phil F. Dodge and signed by inventor M. Braun and by his attorneys, Dodge & Mainn.

Then, in 1887, he received a second patent for an “AERIAL SHIP”. This is the air ship referred to as an “Electro-Dynamic Air Ship” by the “Scientific American” and an “Aeroplane Balloon Ship” by “The Manufacturer and Builder.” This patent has four pages describing the invention that were witnessed by Archer Wakeman and D. Quinlan. Six pages of plans there were witnessed by James F. DuHamel and Walter S. Dodge and signed by “Martin Braun, inventor” and Dodge & son, his attorneys.

Although it’s tempting to imagine Braun soaring his air ship over the St. Lawrence River, I found no reference in any newspaper of Dr. Braun ever building or flying his craft. The journal article ends in eager anticipation of observing the practical application of Braun’s invention.

Neither article recorded the origin of Dr. Braun’s interest in aviation, although a German patent in his name attests to his interest in inventing. In 1850, at 30 years of age, Dr. Braun arrived in America. He can be found in the book “Cape Vincent and Its History,” where author Nelie Horton Casler described him as an early Cape Vincent settler from Germany.

In the 1860 census, Dr. Braun, then aged 40, was living in Cape Vincent with his wife Mary Regina, also from Germany, and their three children [Frank, Caroline & Emma], all of whom were born in Jefferson County. Mary Regina died before 1900. Frank, their only son, was born in 1823 and married a widow, Amy Eddy Penn from Clayton. At one time, Frank was part owner of the “Clayton Independence Newspaper”. While living in Grand Rapids, Mich., Frank died from pneumonia in 1893.

Their daughter Caroline, born in 1858, married George Albert Barker from San Francisco, Ca. In 1906, they moved from Cape Vincent to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their daughter Emma, born in 1861, married Seth P. Mohley, of Grand Isle, Neb, and in 1899 they moved to Manila. Seth was appointed general inspector of customs, for the Philippines and he died in Manila in 1911.

Except for the Civil War years, when Dr. Braun served as an assistant surgeon in the 4th New York Cavalry, Dr. Braun lived in Cape Vincent until his death in 1905. His funeral was under the auspices of the Cape Vincent post G. A. R., of which he was a member. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Cape Vincent, next to his son Frank.

By Clara MacCarald and Kathi McCarthy

Clara MacCarald, daughter of Dennis and Kathi McCarthy, spent her childhood summers in Cape Vincent. Currently she is a freelance writer, living in Central New York with her family. She has a B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology, from the SUNY ESF in Syracuse and a M.S. in Biological Sciences from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

Kathi McCarthy, and her husband, Dennis are active members of the Thousand Islands diving community and are the owners of Blue Ledge System Inc. a local publishing house.  One book, edited by Kathi, is a reprint of the “The Old Fort: Carleton Island in the Revolution,” originally published in 1889 and written by “Carleton”, alias Major James H. Durham. To see a TI Life profile of this very industrious couple, please see our March 2011 article, Kathi and Dennis McCarthy’s Discoveries …  also you can search Kathy McCarthy additional TI Life articles.

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