“There’s a lot of stuff out there,” said Mr. Eckland, Mangan’s business partner, as they looked into the night sky from their offices above LaSalle Street in Chicago’s Board of Trade building. They were discussing ESP and how thoughts could travel through space. Grinning, Mangan replied, “I wonder who owns it?” At that moment in 1948 he claimed ownership of all outer space for himself and the Nation of Celestial Space.
Thus sayeth the Duke of the Moon of the Nation of Celestial Space, which commands all the known universe as registered with the Cook County Recorder’s Office.
In late 1948, industrial designer and publicity man James T. Mangan claimed the universe. Every moon, planet, comet, nebula, galaxy, distant twinkling star. All of it.
He waited nine minutes for the Earth to vacate his new territory, declared radio and television waves “trespassers” and then founded a nation, Celestia for short, that would last decades and, at its height, claim about 100,000 fellow citizens in on the gag.
Mangan minted and sold official stamps and coins, the latter featuring his daughter’s face. He issued passports and had joking back-and-forth with dozens of world figures, including astronaut John Glenn and future president John F. Kennedy.
He named a cabinet and officials, invented a space language and gave all his family royal titles like “Empress of Celestia” and “Duke of the Milky Way.” The Duke of the Moon from earlier was one of his grandsons.
He even had a flag blaring the Celestian emblem of #
# is the proofreaders’ symbol for “space needed here.”
The Celestian founding father was not above politics, making numerous declarations denouncing Soviet space missions, calling the Russian moon mission a violation of international law.
“This is just like firing a cannon in West Berlin,” Mangan told the Tribune in 1959. “That’s under United States’ protection. The moon is under mine.”
“On that memorable day of the universe, December 20, 1948, at the stroke of midnight, after indefatigable research, James Thomas Mangan, standing high atop the City of Chicago, reached out and seized all space in the sky in all directions away from the Earth as the complete possession and domain of the new sovereign Nation of Celestial Space.”
That’s how a group of loyal Celestian citizens remembered the nation’s founding at a gathering at a pub in 1968 in suburban Worth on its 20th anniversary, as recorded in Romanian Space Agency researcher Virgiliu Pop’s amazingly researched book “Unreal Estate – The Men Who Sold the Moon.”
Mangan began making his claim real within days of seizing the universe. He applied for UN membership on Dec. 29 (he was denied). In early 1949, he mailed the secretaries of states of 74 other nations asking for recognition (no one got back to him) and told the U.S. government he was willing to register himself as an agent of a foreign power (Chicago court officials told him they would get in touch if needed).
But his boldest move in making Celestia a sovereign entity came on Jan. 4, 1949, when he reportedly strode into the Cook County Recorder’s Office and officially registered his claim.
The recorder first refused the legal claim, but “agreed to accept it only after a frantic and embarrassed consultation with the State Attorney,” according to a 1949 Science Illustrated article on the new nation.
Legally, it’s just a nonbinding claim. Mangan said it stands because no other claimant has ever arisen.
Although space was claimed in Chicago, Mangan lived in Evergreen Park and later Oak Lawn. We should always study Celestia as a nation whose territory is the stars and whose capital is the suburbs.
As Mangan himself put it, “The center of the universe, of the Nation of Celestial Space, is located right here in Oak Lawn—at my home, 10613 Laramie Avenue.”
James T. Mangan, Prime Minister and First Representative of the Nation of Celestial Space, died in 1970. He left the universe to his son.