This item is absolutely stuff ‘n’ nonsense, which raises the question of why it even appeared in the Press Democrat. Certainly stories sometimes had tongue-in-cheek slants; just a few weeks later, for example, W. S. Davis again was in the news, this time as a great fisherman who landed his prize catch at a grocery on the way home. But in my readings, such a completely fantastic yarn is unprecedented in either Santa Rosa paper of this era.
Today we likely can’t unravel all the inside jokes and cultural references here; “Aer Fervens” is elementary Latin for “hot air,” and the general ridicule of aviation may relate to editor Finley’s belief that nothing would ever become of these flying machines, as shown in his op/ed discussed in the following post. Oates is, of course, the first owner of Comstock House, and Davis was his next-door neighbor. Ads in other California newspapers for St. Louis-brewed Budweiser began appearing after the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, so perhaps the beer was viewed as an exotic import around Santa Rosa at this time.
Santa Rosa Skyship Sails
Last night at 9 o’clock the new skyship “Aer Fervens” mounted to the clouds from the grounds of the residence of its inventor and builder, W. S. Davis; and after steering a zigzag course for a few minutes, just as a carrier pigeon does in geting its bearings, the new craft turned its nose to the southwest and followed a straight course over the hills and toward Bennett Valley.
A “message” was sent to President Roosevelt apprising him of the airship’s flight; and the President responded with congratulations, and the announcement that he had appointed the inventor to the rank and station of “Rarest Admiral” in the navy, and assigned him to the command of the aerial fleet. For many months “Rarest Admiral” Davis had burned the midnight oil in working upon his invention. Last night his efforts were crowned, and he was a proud man as he watched the product of his hands and brain soar among the clouds, and disappear over the hills.
The launching of the skyship was attended by appropriate ceremony. Colonel J. W. Oates, who is financially interested in the enterprise, sang “Up in a Balloon,” and the inventor broke an empty Budweiser bottle over the prow as the vessel mounted skyward. The “Aer Fervens” is equipped with wireless telegraph apparatus, by means of which the following message was sent to those who were waiting:
“Bennett Valley Grange Hall, 10 p. m. — Landed 9:45, good condition. Only ten pages of speech used as fuel. Will present remainder to Judge Barham. As passed over Taylor mountain, saw plainly Jim Hallihan at back door putting out cat, prepariory [sic] for retiring. Goodnight.”– Press Democrat, July 4, 1905