Here are some images to accompany Don Cook's article from dirt rag. I nabbed them from twentyniner.fr. If you can read french you're stoked. I cannot.
This is the bike I really consider to be the first 29er. The 1992 Diamondback Overdrive. Dealers bought them, dealers sold them and Dave Wiens raced one. We got a few in at Bike Pedalers when I was there. My memory is telling me that they had Marzocchi suspension forks on them. Not the Manitou that the picture shows. It also came stock with Panaracer Smoke 700x45 tires.
This is Bianchi's Project 3 (third generation). The original was the Project 7. Produced 2 years earlier than the Overdrive. I was never aware this bike was produced. This bike seems to be more of a hybrid in mountain bikes clothing. It lacked the bigger tires that the Diamondback had 2 years later.
Now it's getting good. 1999, Willits first 29er. You can tell the bike needed some refinement. Mega short wheelbase. Check the gap from tire to seat tube. Manitou 700c trekking fork of course, the only option at the time.
This was the only image I could find of the Steve Potts built Gary Fisher 29er, in the hands of Zapata Espinoza. The fork is what I was looking for. Tom Rogers hand built Manitou SX Carbon 29er proto. Upon closer imspection you would see the ugliest rattle can paint job you could imagine. Gary loved it though, and he put the bikes into production.