JOHN A. SOWELL (1864-1951)



Little is known about John A. Sowell and his life as an artist, but there are numerous records and drawings on file with the US Patent Office dating back to the early 1900’s that are attributed to J.A. Sowell (and some in partnership with E.E. Sowell), most of which relate to airplane engineering. One such patent application was filed on December 3, 1918 and was granted on February 24, 1920 and reads, “this invention relates to improvements in aeroplanes, the principal object being to produce an aeroplane which will control the air instead of the machine being controlled by the air; by means of construction, I am able to shut off the driving power and remain stationary in the air or ascend and descend at will thereby, and in a vertical plane.” {US PATENT 1331593}

It is uncertain whether Sowell and his partner(s) ever had the opportunity to pursue this or his other patented ideas, but his imaginative drawings and sculpture give us a glimpse into his creative process. The works in Keen’s collection demonstrate Sowell’s ambition for advancing the mechanics in aviation – leading us to believe that he was known as a visionary in his time.