Hartford, CT – July 4, 1866

Hartford, Connecticut – July 4, 1866

     On July 4, 1866, a balloon exhibition was scheduled to take place at State-House Square in Hartford, however as the balloon lay tethered to the ground, clouds began to move in and the wind began to increase.  Despite the change in weather, the two aeronauts, identified only as Sweet and Bassett, insisted the show would go on.

     Once the balloon was aloft, Sweet was to give a performance on a trapeze suspended beneath the gondola, but as the wind began to blow harder he began having second thoughts.  Bassett, however, did not, and climbed into the gondola and gave the signal to release the balloon.  Unfortunately, there was a delay by some who were holding the tether ropes, for they all didn’t let go in unison.  Consequently the balloon swung into some telegraph wires which cut the string which held the anchor rope.  The anchor released without Bassett’s knowledge, and as the balloon began to rise the anchor snagged in the wires, causing the balloon to uncontrollably blow back and forth with the increasing wind.     

     Bassett, still unaware that the anchor was holding the balloon down, began tossing ballast overboard to get it to rise, but without success.  Once he realized the situation, he called to those on the ground to cut the rope, which they were unable to do because the wires on the poles were out of reach.  

      The wind continued to grow stronger and pushed the balloon into some trees where the emergency cord which would allow the balloon to be rapidly deflated was severed, leaving Bassett no way to bring the balloon down.  Then the wind began pushing the balloon back and forth, smashing it into the trees, and then away.  At one point as it came into the trees, Basset leaped out and grabbed hold of the branches.  He did so not a moment too soon, for as he was clinging to the upper part of the tree, the anchor rope suddenly ripped free from the gondola, which sent the balloon shooting skyward with nobody inside!  

     The balloon, which was valued at somewhere between $800 to $1,000, was last seen heading northward and upward, until it was nothing more than a mere speck in the sky.  What became of it is not recorded.

     Source: New York Times, “The Fourth In Hartford”, July 7, 1866  

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