Story of the Century, LLC
Story of the Century
David O. Hill
Set in 1902, Story of the Century is an original musical about Burrell Cannon, the inventor of the Ezekiel Airship. From his small town in Pittsburg, Texas, Cannon invented and flew the Ezekiel Airship a year before the Wright brothers’ historic flight. Combining historic events with fictional characters, Story of the Century captures the spirit of 1902 with rollicking melodies, social consciousness, and heart. With a mixture of historical and fictional characters, The Story of the Century captures the spirit of the turn of the 20th century as a tidal wave of cultural and technological change swept cross the country. By 1902, horseless carriages were appearing and the age of manned flight was dawning. Yet it was less than 40 years after the end of the Civil War, women couldn’t vote, and the Women’s Christian Temperance League was already working to prohibit the use of alcohol throughout the country. In the finale, the whole cast in 1902 ponders the “new world so sweet and strange” that will exist 100 years in the future.
All of us who are living in that world today know about the monumental changes that have occurred in the 115 years since 1902. We also know that some things haven’t changed.
About the Ezekiel Airship
Burrell (Burl) Cannon was a college educated engineer who operated a sawmill near Pittsburg
Texas in 1902. He was also an ordained Baptist minister and an accomplished inventor. Burl had a vision in which God’s plan for a flying machine was revealed. He and Paul Thorsell, owner of the Pittsburg Foundry, along with other investors organized the Ezekiel Airship Manufacturing Company, Inc. and sold stock at $25 to build the Ezekiel Airship.
I was born and reared in Texas, but my family and I have lived in Prairie Village, Kansas for over thirty years. I first learned about the Ezekiel Airship about 25 years ago when our family visited Greenville, Texas, the home of my brother Ted Hill and his wife Maggie. Ted told me about the full scale model of the Ezekiel Airship then on display in the Warrick Restaurant in Pittsburg,Texas.* We drove there the next day and the story of the
Ezekiel Airship has been a part of me ever since. After the idea of a play about the Airship had begun to form in my mind, I asked Ted, an Aeronautical Engineer, to build a small scale model of the Ezekiel Airship. Ted’s model reflects his expert ability to build anything made of wood. However, Ted’s model of the Airship is too precious to be used as a stage prop, so the onstage model was built by my daughter, Erin Hill Metcalf. I first put pen to paper for Story of the Century 20 years ago but didn’t start working seriously 2012
when I started collaborating with musician Sarah Hill. The development of the musical accelerated once we learned it had been accepted for the 2016 Fringe Festival. Since then I have expanded my collaboration to include Director Dr. Chris McCoy; Production Manager Marybeth Sorrell; and Music Director Brant Challacombe.
*The full scale replica of the Ezekiel Airship is now displayed at the Northeast Texas Rural
Heritage Museum in Pittsburg, Texas.