A. Roy Knabenshue’s “Toledo No. 1” surrounded by a crowd (photo courtesy of Toledo Lucas County Public Library)
Ohio Life

A. Roy Knabenshue’s Toledo No. 1 Takes Flight

On June 30, 1905, the Ohio-born aeronaut took to the skies over Toledo to demonstrate the capabilities of his airship.

When it comes to famous Ohio flyers, A. Roy Knabenshue isn’t usually part of the conversation, yet the Lancaster native made his mark piloting airships during the early days of flight. On June 30, 1905, surrounded by a crowd of onlookers at the Toledo fairgrounds, Knabenshue took off in his new airship, Toledo No. 1.

“Navigating the air at a height of a mile, Roy Knabenshue made the first perfect flight with his airship,” The Cincinnati Post reported in its June 30, 1905, edition. 

Toledo No. 1 lifted off at 9 a.m., and Knabenshue was able to maintain “perfect control at all times.”

“Knabenshue manipulated the ship with perfect ease, and as it gradually grew in spectators’ sight, it was evident that he would make his landing in spite of the strong headwind against him,” the article noted. The pilot then landed Toledo No. 1 atop the Spitzer Building, “as easy as if it were stopping from a trolley wire.”

“Knabenshue dismounted and received the congratulations of those on the roof, he then moved the ship over to the Huron St. side of the building, re-entered the cage and sailed gracefully away,” according to the report.

The Newspaper Enterprise Association distributed a column Knabenshue penned that detailed his airship’s construction. It ran in June 30, 1905, editions across the country. In the column, he explained that Toledo No. 1 held 7,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas and measured 58 feet long and 15 feet in diameter.

“My engine, which is of my own invention, is a four-cylinder, eight-horsepower gasoline engine weighing 75 pounds and drives the propeller approximately at 300 revolutions a minute,” Knabenshue wrote. He estimated that under favorable conditions, the airship could reach speeds of 25 miles per hour.

“I don’t know that the airship will ever become a commercial possibility,” he noted, “but I have my own opinion about it, and it is to demonstrate that the theories which have been followed by aeronauts are not mere dreams …”