Boston, MA – July 4, 1892

Boston, Massachusetts – July 4, 1892


      As part of some July 4th celebration activities, Boston city officials had organized a balloon ascension from the Boston Common. 

     Just after 4:00 p.m. Professor George Augustus Rogers of Malden, Maine, his assistant Thomas Fenton, and a reporter, Delos E. Goldsmith, stepped into the gondola of the huge balloon named the Governor Russell, and prepared for lift-off. 

     When the Governor Russell was released, it rose several hundred feet and began drifting towards Dorchester, but then the wind changed and carried it out over Boston Harbor. It continued on this course, steadily rising higher, and before long it became apparent the craft would be blown out to sea – a ballonist’s worst nightmare, for it meant almost certain death if rescue was not readily available.  As the balloon drifted towards Thompson’s Island, Rogers attempted to release some of the gas by opening the release valve, but had trouble doing so, and a lager tear in the fabric resulted.  As the gas rushed out, the balloon fell rapidly, crashing into the water and completely collapsing.  

     As the occupants floundered, Rogers sank beneath the waves and disappeared.  Fenton and Goldsmith managed to stay afloat and were rescued by men in a rowboat from Thompson’s Island.  A passing tugboat also gave assistance, and took both men to the mainland, but Fenton died before they reached shore from inhaling the poison gas from the balloon.  Goldsmith later recovered.     

     Professor Rogers was an experienced balloonist having made 112 ascensions since 1870.  Ironically, this wasn’t the professor’s first aviation accident.  On July 4, 1881, Rogers took off in a balloon from Point-of-Pines in Revere, Massachusetts, and arrived over Nahant, Mass. where the balloon fabric suddenly ripped, causing him to land upon some telephone wires.  It was reported that he received “injuries from which he never fully recovered.”   

     Rogers left behind a wife and family.  His body was recovered on July 15, found floating in the water near the L Street bathhouse. 

    Thomas Fenton, 34, was survived by his wife and six children. This was his first trip in a balloon.

     The accident left city officials wondering if balloon ascensions should be allowed in the future, with some going on record as stating any future requests would be denied. 


New York Times, “Three Balloon Accidents”, July 5, 1892

New York Times, “The Boston Balloon Accident”, July 6, 1892

Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Burlington, VT.) “Aeronaut Rogers’ Body”, July 21, 1892


Boston, MA – July 6, 1891

Boston, Mass. – July 6 1891 

     On July 6, 1891, 34-year-old Jennie C. Croker of Providence, (Professionally known as Nellie Wheeler) was giving a balloon exhibition at Waverly Park in Boston when an accident occurred.  After taking her balloon up to an altitude of 1,200 feet, she jumped using a parachute.  When she was within thirty feet of the ground it appeared she was going to land on some greenhouses which could have caused severe lacerations if she broke through the glass.  Therefore she let go of the parachute, and fell to the ground landing on her back.  She was transported to a nearby hospital where doctors felt her injuries were non-survivable.


Source: New York Times, “Mrs. Jennie C. Crocker’s Injuries”, July 6, 1891         

Boston Harbor, MA – July 4, 1888

Boston Harbor, Massachusetts – July 4, 1888


     At 6 p.m. on the evening of July 4, 1888, a balloon rose from the Boston Common and drifted eastward over the harbor where it unexpectedly came down in the water not far from an area of land known as Point Shirley, which is located in the neighboring town of Winthrop.  A strong wind was blowing, and the occupants of the balloon were dragged for three miles through the choppy waters until rescued by the crew of a steam powered yacht identified as the Rose G. 

     A newspaper account stated, “After much trouble the party were taken aboard and all were safely brought to the city.  The journey was a most perilous one, and the escape from death of the excursionists almost miraculous.”  

     The names of the balloon’s occupants weren’t given.

     Source: The Indianapolis Journal, (Indiana), “Aeronauts In Peril”, July 6, 1888  


Boston, MA – July 9, 1862

Boston, Massachusetts – July 9, 1862


    old balloon At about 7:00 p.m. on the evening of July 9, 1862, a balloon named the “Star Spangled Banner” piloted by Samuel A. King, ascended from the Boston Common with four passengers aboard.  Once aloft it was unexpectedly blown seaward, and then fell at a rapid rate to the water.  The gondola was dragged through the water of Boston Harbor as several boats gave chase in an attempt to rescue its occupants.  One steam powered boat, the Huron, managed to catch up and rescue the aeronauts after securing a line to the balloon.  Once the men were safely aboard, the line snapped, and the now empty balloon shot up into the sky and disappeared in the clouds.


     The New York Herald, “Ascension Of The Great Balloon “Star Spangled Banner” From Boston Common – Peril Of The Aeronauts”, July 11, 1862     



Boston, MA – July 3, 1909

Boston, Massachusetts – July 3, 1909


    balloon On Saturday, July 3, 1909, a church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was having a Fourth of July celebration fair.  Part of the festivities included a balloon ascension scheduled for later in the day.  At the appointed time, aeronaut Joseph J. Cannon, 37, took off in his balloon and drifted across the Charles River and over the Boston Common.  It was there the hot air in the balloon suddenly began to cool down causing an uncontrolled loss of altitude.  The craft came down between two tall business buildings at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets.  (These buildings no longer exist.) The balloon’s netting became caught, leaving Cannon suspended over the narrow alleyway that ran between the two buildings.   He was rescued, unhurt, by members of the Boston Fire Department.    

     Source: (New Brunswick) The Sun, “Boston Aeronaut Is Rescued From His Perilous Position” July 5, 1909 


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