Turns out there really was a Rufus Porter trying to do this.
R. Porter & company really did have plans to build this, and it would have been 100 years ahead of the German Zeppelin. It looks like it may have worked too.
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More Interesting reading on this:
Mystery Airships of the 1800's
Mystery Airships: The Steampunk UFOs Part Three
Flying Machines - Rufus Porter
Townsend Historical Society - Rufus Porter
Rufus Porter Museum - Chronology of Rufus Porter's Life