West Haven, CT. – July 23, 1891

West Haven, Connecticut – July 23, 1891

     On July 23, 1891, aeronaut “Daring Donald” was scheduled to do a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Savin Rock in West Haven.  The balloon took off and rose to an altitude of about 150 feet when it suddenly began to descend, likely to due to gas escaping.  Donald jumped when the balloon was about 100 feet in the air but his parachute did not deploy.  He came down in a field of soft clay and miraculously survived, and was not seriously injured. 

     Source:

     Waterbury Evening Democrat, “Accident And Incident – “Daring Donald” Falls From A Balloon At Savin Rock”, July 24, 1891      

Boston, MA. – July 4, 1862

Boston Massachusetts, July 4, 1862

    At 7:05 p.m. on the evening of July 4, 1860, Professor Samuel A. King and four passengers took off from the Boston Common in the balloon “Star Spangled Banner” as part of the city’s July Fourth celebration.  With the professor were Mr. J. B. Stearns, Superintendent of the Boston Telegraph Fire Alarms, William Mc Cormic, and Mr. Holden, both newspaper reporters, and a forth man identified as Thaddeus Page.  

     As it rose, the balloon took an easterly course towards Boston Harbor.  There was fog over the water, and so King made preparations to land as soon as possible.  He released some of the gas and the balloon came down in the water just south of Rainsford Island.  After rising again, it began to head towards Long Island. (One of Boston’s Harbor Islands.)  King figured he could make a landing there but then realized it would be impossible.  

     Meanwhile people on several boats had been watching the men’s predicament and set course to intercept them.  Ropes were dropped from the balloon, and the first to secure one was a man aboard a sail boat, but the boat was no match for the bobbing balloon and he had to release it.

     A line was then secured to the tugboat “Huron”, but it snapped.  A second line was secured and this one held, but the strong winds now buffeting the balloon were causing the balloon to pull the tug off course and towards a rocky reef where it would likely be wrecked. 

     King and his passengers were forced to abandon the balloon and climb down the thirty foot rope to the deck of the tug.  As they were doing so, Stearns lost his grip and fell into the water but was quickly rescued.  King was the last to leave the balloon, and as soon as he was safely aboard the tug the line was cut and the balloon sailed away.   

     The balloon, which was valued at $800, was recovered the following day having come down on a fence and torn open. 

     Sources:

     The Boston Post, (no headline), July 4, 1862 

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

Professor Samuel Archer King – Aeronaut

     Professor Samuel Archer King, (April 9, 1828 –  November 3, 1914), was one of America’s earliest and well known aeronauts who performed balloon ascensions all over the north east. 

     He made his first balloon ascension at Philadelphia on September 25, 1851 in a balloon he’d designed and constructed himself.  The take off was less than grand, for their hadn’t been enough gas to fill the balloon, but King took off anyway not wanting to disappoint the crown.  As the balloon began to rise, it struck an enclosure, then a bridge, and then some telegraph wires.  The balloon then came down in the Schuylkill River.  It then proceeded to bounce across the river  giving King a good dunking until it finally came to rest on the opposite shore. 

     On another ascension from Wilkesbarre, Pa., in 1855, King found himself over some thickly forested mountains looking for a place to land when the balloon became snagged in the top branches of a hemlock tree and was then driven into the branches of another tree.  The sharp branched caused the gas bag to burst and King fell 40 feet to the ground.     

     In August of 1857, King ascended from New Haven, Connecticut, with two passengers aboard.  Air currents blew the balloon out over Long Island sound and then eastward towards the Atlantic Ocean.  King managed to set the balloon down in the water and allowed it to be “dragged” by winds to a tiny unnamed island.  The men were rescued a short time later by a boat that had been following their progress. 

     On October 13, 1860, Professor King and photographer J. W. Black ascended over Boston in a tethered balloon.  It was during this flight that the world’s first aerial photograph was taken.  

     At the 1861 Fourth of July celebration held on the Boston Common, King ascended with four passengers.  Once the balloon rose, winds began carrying it towards Boston Harbor.  Not wanting to be blown out to sea, King made preparations to land on a small strip of sand at the shoreline.  After dropping ballast and releasing gas, the balloon began to settle towards the intended landing place, but as it neared the ground one of the passengers suddenly jumped out, which significantly lightened the load, and the balloon suddenly shot up again again and resumed its course over the water.  King knew that their only chance of survival was to all leave the balloon at the same time, and after dropping low enough, they all jumped and splashed down in the harbor.  The balloon continued on and was later recovered a few miles off shore by a passing boat.     

     The following year King made another July 4th ascension from the Boston Common with four passengers, and once again he was carried out over the harbor.  Fore more information, click here.

     Another adventure occurred while King was giving tethered ascensions at Melrose, Massachusetts, (Date Unknown), where the balloon was tethered to the ground by men holding it with ropes.  There King ascended with five women passengers.  Then someone lost their grip on a rope, which it seemed to set of  a chain reaction, and within seconds all men had let go, and the balloon sailed upwards.  Two women reportedly “clapped with joy”, which the others expressed concern.  King successfully brought the balloon back to earth about four miles away. 

1870 Advertisement

     On July 4, 1872 King was scheduled to take off from the Boston Common in his new balloon, “Colossus”, the largest balloon ever constructed up to that time.    https://newenglandaviationhistory.com/samuel-a-kings-balloon-colossus-1872/

     Professor continued to pilot balloons well into his 80s.  On October 27, 1907, King and four passengers took off from Philadelphia in the balloon “Ben Franklin“, said to be the world’s largest at the time, holding 92,000 cubic feet of gas.   They landed safely in Belchertown, Massachusetts. 

     Professor King passed away on November 3, 1914, at the age of 87.  Throughout his career he’d made 480 flights in a balloon.  

     Professor King had a son, Frank K. King, who was also an aeronaut.  

     Sources:

     The Charleston Daily News, (Charleston, S. C.), “Up In A Balloon – Perilous Adventures of an Aeronaut – A few Flights With Him “,  March 21, 1870

     The Birmingham Age-Herald, (Ala.) “The Oldest Aeronaut”, November 7, 1914, pg. 7

     The Waterbury Democrat, “First Aerial Photo Shown”, October 1, 1943.  

Savin Rock Balloon Ascensions – 1902

Balloon Ascension at Savin Rock, CT.

July, 1902

Nahant, MA. – August 30, 1901

Nahant, Massachusetts – August 30, 1901

     At about 8:30 p.m. on the evening of August 30, 1901, 24-year-old aeronaut Robert E. Jewett was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop on the grounds of the Relay House in Nahant, where he had been performing for the previous several days.   Jewett would rise with the balloon sitting on a trapeze bar suspended underneath.  Part of the act would include pyrotechnics which he would light during his descent.  

     However, as the balloon was taking off it struck the roof of the Lilly Cottage which was on a hill behind the Relay House, and Jewett was thrown from his perch and landed on some rocks below.  He was taken unconscious to the Lynn Hospital where doctors said he would likely die.  

     Source:

     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I.), August 31, 1901 

Caledonia, Vt., County Fair – 1890

St. Johnsbury Caledonian
September, 1890
Click on image to enlarge.

Savin Rock, CT., Balloon Ascension – 1896

Click on image to enlarge.

1896 Advertisement

Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1901

The Providence News

August 3, 1901

Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1906

Advertisement from 1906
Click on image to enlarge.

News-Democrat
(Providence, R.I.)
August 3, 1906
Click on image to enlarge.

     To read more about Professor J. La Roux, click here. 

 

Auburn, ME. – September 12, 1911

Auburn, Maine – September 12, 1911

    In the early morning hours of September 12, 1911, H. Percy Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society in Williamstown, Massachusetts, took off in a balloon from nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  The purpose of the flight was to try and reach the Canadian border to break a previous record set by famous aeronaut Leo Stevens. 

     Shortly after sunrise the balloon was caught in a strong storm system involving rain, hail, and cold air currents.   Shearman rode out the storm, but at some point he was benumbed by the cold and realized he had to land.  He tried to use the outlet valve to allow gas to escape, but it wasn’t working, so he tried the emergency rip cord and found that that too was now inoperable.  In desperation he climbed up through the ropes with a knife and slashed the balloon.  As he did so he was hit in the face by the escaping poisonous gas.  He fell back unconscious into the gondola as the balloon quickly lost altitude and came down on a Estes farm in the outskirts of Auburn, Maine.  There he was discovered and brought to Lewiston Hospital for treatment.

     It was reported that the distance between Pittsfield and Auburn was about 200 miles, making this the longest solo balloon flight to date in New England.

     Source:

     Daily Kennebec Journal, (Maine), “Lands In Auburn – Aeronaut Shearman Has terrible Experience”, September 13, 1911.

     Norwich Bulletin, (Conn), “Aeronaut Benumbed By Cold And Rain”, September 13, 1911.      

East Providence, R. I. – August 12, 1906

East Providence, Rhode Island – August 12, 1906

 

Advertisement from 1906
Click on image to enlarge.

    On the afternoon of August 12, 1906, Professor Joseph La Roux and his wife Tina were scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Crescent Park in East Providence.  As the balloon was lifting off, the professor was sitting atop the parachute bar located under the balloon.  When the balloon had reached an altitude of about ten feet the professor’s safety rope broke and he fell to the ground and seriously injured his back.  Meanwhile, Mrs. La Roux stayed with the balloon which reached an altitude of about 2,500 feet.  At that point she jumped, deployed her parachute and landed safely in Bullocks Point Cove. 

     Source:

     The News-Democrat, (Providence, R. I.), “Aeronaut La Roux Fell And Struck On Back”, August 13, 1906       

Unity, N.H. – November 11, 1911

Unity, New Hampshire – November 11, 1911

    On November 11, 1911, three students from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, took off in a balloon named “Stevens 21”.  The pilot was H. Perry Sherman, the former president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society.  He was accompanied by H. R. Sorner of Cleveland, Ohio, and J. A. Jones of New York City.  

     The ascension was made from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, at 2 p.m., and the balloon began traveling in a northerly direction.  It passed over southern Vermont and into New Hampshire where it began to approach Acworth Mountain. The balloon was heavy, and the men began tossing out ballast in order to clear the top of the mountain.  After clearing the mountain it continued on towards Clairmont, New Hampshire.   With the ballast depleted, the pilot was forced to drop the anchor in order to land.  The anchor caught some tree tops in a wooded area in the town of Unity, and the balloon began to heavily bump against the tree tops.  The men were unable to climb down, and were forced to spend the night in their precarious position.  Fortunately they were discovered by a farmer, who sought help.  After cutting away some of the trees the men were finally able to escape the bobbing balloon.  More trees had to be cut in order to drag the balloon from the woods. 

     The balloon had traveled 77 miles. 

     Source: 

     The Dailey Kennebec Journal, (Maine), “Bumped, Amateur Aeronauts Thrilling Trip”, November 13, 1911.  

 

Ada I. Mitchell, Aeronaut, Balloonist – 1894

     The following article appeared in the defunct Vermont newspaper, The Herald & News, of West Randolph, Vermont, October 11, 1894.  It relates the experience  of Ada I. Mitchell, (Vandever) (Vandeveer).   

 

Boston Harbor, MA. – June 17, 1888

Boston Harbor, Massachusetts – June 17, 1888

    On June 17, 1888, the annual Bunker Hill celebration was taking place in Boston.  Part of the program included a balloon ascension which took place late in the afternoon.  At about 4:30 p.m. the balloon took off with three men aboard.  The pilot was famous aeronaut George A. Rogers, with passengers L. W. Cashman of the Boston Globe newspaper, and Rogers’ assistant, George Seavey.     

     The balloon drifted for about over the city before it was blown out over Boston Harbor and came down in the water near Acorn Island.  Upon impact with the water Rogers and Seavey were pitched into the water, but Cashman managed to cling to the upper rigging and remain aboard.  All three men were rescued by a yacht that had been watching the progress of the balloon. 

     This was not the first balloon accident Professor Rogers was involved in.   One occurred in July of 1881, and the other, in which he lost his life, occurred on July 4, 1892.   

     Source: The Portland Daily Press, (Portland, Me.) “Balloonists Get A Ducking”, June 19, 1888.

Daily Evening Bulletin
Maysville, KY.)
September 22, 1884
The initial J should have been a G.

 

Two Providence, R. I. Balloon Ascensions – 1835

     Louis Anselm Lauriat, (1786 – 1857), was a Boston aeronaut who reportedly made 48 balloon ascensions during his lifetime.  He was born in Marseilles, France, and came to America in the early 1800s, where he settled in Boston and established a business at the corner of Washington and Springfield Streets in Boston producing gold leaf.  He also developed an interest in science and balloons, and began making ascensions of his own. 

     On July 25, 1835, Lauriat made a balloon ascension from Providence and later wrote of his journey which was published in The Northern Star & Constitutionalist (A defunct newspaper of Warren, Rhode Island) on August 1, 1835. 

     Lauriat made another ascension from Providence on August 8, 1835. (See advertisement below.)   

Click on images to enlarge. 

Herald of the Times
(Newport, R. I.)
August 6, 1835

 

Charles Colby – 19th Century Aeronaut and Balloonist

Click on articles to enlarge.

Charles E. Colby – Very little is known.

Portland Daily Press
Sept. 2, 1889

From the Aroostook Republican
September 18, 1889

Staunton Vindicator
April 26, 1889

The Indianapolis Journal
May 11, 1889, p2

The Portland Daily Press
August 27, 1891

Los Angeles Herald
May 17, 1909, p12

Los Angeles Herald
May 24, 1909

 

Pequabuck Balloon Ascension- 1886

Pequabuck Agricultural Fair Balloon Ascension Advertisement – 1886 

click on image to enlarge.

Morning Journal and Courier
New Haven, Ct.
September 29, 1886

Charles Durant’s Boston Balloon Ascensions – 1834

Charles Durant’s Boston Balloon Ascensions – 1834

     Charles Ferson Durant, (Born Sept. 19, 1805 – died, Mar. 2, 1873) has been referred to by the press as “America’s First Aeronaut”.  During the course of his career he made three balloon ascensions from Boston.  

     Mr. Durant’s first balloon ascension from Boston took place on or about August 1, 1834.

     According to a newspaper article that appeared in the Alexandria Gazette on August 5, 1834, Durant took off from an Amphitheater near Charles Street that was erected for the occasion.   Thousands had gathered to watch, being an exceptionally unusual event for the era.  The ascension was successful, and the balloon was carried off by prevailing breezes which pushed it out over the open water.  There it was observed by the Captain of the steamboat Hancock to drop low several times and touch the water.  The Hancock turned to pursue the wayward balloon, but had trouble in doing so.

     The balloon finally landed in the ocean about five miles off the coast  of Marblehead, Massachusetts, but fortunately Mr. Durant had equipped himself with a life vest which kept him afloat until he was recued.

     The following article appeared in the Alexandria Gazette on August 30, 1834.   

_______

BALLOON ASCENSION

     Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 26. – Mr. Durant’s Eleventh Ascension –  Yesterday afternoon, agreeably to previous notice, Mr. Durant made his eleventh grand ascension (it being his second from Boston,) from his amphitheater on the city land west of Charles Street.  The day was pleasant, and the wind was blowing with a pretty strong breeze from the north east. 

     At 4 o’clock, 30 minutes, Mr. Durant took his place in his wicker-basket car, the cords which detained him were severed, and he rose majestically from the amphitheater amid the firing of cannon and the benedictions of the multitude.  He moved toward the north-west.  Before leaving the ground, he had thrust out several bags of sand, and on rising 700 or 800 feet from the ground, he arrived at an elevation where there was no wind at all, and he remained apparently stationary for some minutes.  He was then observed to let out the sand from one of the bags, which was seen to descend like rain, and the rays of sun upon it gave it the appearance of vapor descending in a vertical direction, and affording a beautiful appearance.  he then cast out what appeared to be the empty bag, which descended slowly, and was mistaken by many of the spectators for the rabbit falling with the parachute.  he now discharged the sand from several bags, which was seen to rain down in like manner, and the balloon was observed to rise.  In the meantime the gas was distinctly seen escaping from the top of the balloon like vapor.  After being up about 15 minutes the balloon descended to a lower stratum of atmosphere, which set towards the north-west, and it then moved pretty fast towards Cambridgeport.  At this time the rabbit was discharged with the parachute , which was observed to fall gradually in, or near, Cambridgeport.  The balloon then rose again , and appeared nearly stationary for several minutes, when it again moved towards the west.  Every few minutes the sand was distinctly seen showering down, and finally the balloon was observed to descend apparently beyond Mount Auburn.

     Six o’clock.   We have this moment the satisfaction of hearing of Mr. Durant’s safe arrival with the balloon at the Tremont House, where he was welcomed by the shouts and congratulations of a large collection of people.  We learn that at 5 h. 6 m. he landed safely in a field west of Mount Auburn, and about six miles from the Amphitheater.  He was, therefore, 36 minutes in the air, and one hour and a half from his starting to his arrival at the Tremont House.  He brought the rabbit with him, and it was exhibited in front of the Tremont.  the parachute is in the shape of a large umbrella.

     It happened that everything was in readiness for the ascension at an earlier hour than was anticipated and consequently the balloon started at half past 4 instead of 5 o’clock, as had been announced.  In consequence to this, we regret to say that many people were too late to see the balloon at starting.  To enable such people to witness the operation, and to afford everybody another opportunity to see the magnificent spectacle, it is hoped that Mr. Durant will undertake a third ascension from Boston.  As the balloon is uninjured, an early day would probably be convenient for the intrepid aeronaut as it would be desirable to our citizens generally.      

———-

     Mr. Durant’s third balloon ascension from Boston occurred on September 13, 1834.  The ascension had been scheduled for two days earlier but had to be postponed due to high winds.

     After taking off just before 5 p.m.,  the balloon drifted westward towards Brighton until reaching an air current that was blowing to the east.  It then passed over the Boston Common and the State House, and eventually settled safely in Watertown.

     Source: Alexandria Gazette, “Balloon Ascension” September 18, 1834.

——-

 

Near Providence, RI – November 19, 1910

Near Providence, RI – November 19, 1910

     On November 19, 1910, the balloon Cleveland, took off from North Adams, Massachusetts, with five men aboard.  The craft was piloted by Leo Stevens, and carrying four Williams College students as passengers. 

     Strong winds on the ground delayed the ascension for nearly an hour, but when it finally took to the sky the balloon “shot up like a rocket” before being carried away in an easterly direction.  Three hours and thirty-five minutes later the balloon was over Rhode Island approaching Providence when it began to lose altitude.   Ballast was dropped, but the balloon continued to fall, and appeared to heading for a large lake.  The aeronauts were forced to strip off their clothing to lighten the weight in order to avoid a water landing.  The tactic worked, and the balloon sailed across the lake before crashing onto the far shore.

     Upon impact, one of the occupants, H.P. Scharman was pitched out and received serious injuries.  Thus relieved of significant weight, the balloon suddenly rose upwards leaving Scharman behind.  It then continued onward several hundred feet, propelled forward by heavy winds, before it slammed into a stone wall.  The crash sent the others tumbling out causing relatively minor injuries.    

Source: New York Times, “Balloon Up In Gale, Spills Aviators”, November 20, 1910

 

Bellingham, MA – June 29, 1902

Bellingham, Massachusetts – June 29, 1902    

Hillman and Ward hanging from the balloon.

     On June 29, 1902, a man identified as Professor Hillman was at Hoag Lake in Bellingham to give an exhibition with his balloon.  Just prior to takeoff, the balloon was being held down by assistants grasping on to ropes.  At the proper signal from Hillman, the ropes were released, and as the balloon rose upward.  Louis Ward, one of the assistants, somehow got his leg caught in one of the ropes and was suddenly jerked skyward – face down!   

     The balloon was rising fast, and the best Ward could do was to hold onto the rope to keep from falling.  Fortunately he had the ability get himself in an upright position which made holding on easier. 

     From the gondola beneath the balloon, Hillman shouted instructions, and then jumped with his parachute leaving Ward in his predicament.  

     The balloon began to descend and came down in a tree in Milford, Massachusetts, about a mile from Hoag Lake.   Ward was unharmed, but definitely shaken by his ordeal.       

     Ironically, Wards sister, Mabelle, was to have an balloon accident of her own at the same park on July 4, 1902.  (See Bellingham, MA – July 4, 1902  under Massachusetts Civil Aviation Accidents on this website for more information.)             

     Silver Lake is a body of water that lies in the approximate geographical center of the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts.  At the dawn of the 20th century it was known as Hoag Lake, and was a popular tourist destination due to an amusement park located along its shores. The park was owned and operated by the Milford, Attleboro, & Woonsocket Street Railway Company, and it cost a nickel to ride the street car to get there.   Besides a large carousel and other rides, the park boasted a restaurant, a dance hall, a theatre, a beach, outdoor concerts, boat rentals, live animal acts, and the occasional balloon exhibition.

 Source:

Pawtucket Times, “Miraculous Escape From Death By Fall”, June 30, 1902, Pg.1

Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I.), “Up In The Balloon”, June 30, 1902  

Washington Bee, “Adventure in Midair), July 27, 1902

 

 

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 balloonist’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. 

     Prof. Rogers had been involved in at least two previous balloon accidents.  One in July of 1881, and the other on June 17, 1888.  

Sources:

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

 

Samuel A King’s Balloon “Colossus” – 1872

Samuel A. King’s Balloon “Colossus” – 1872

Updated November 27, 2002

Advertisement from August, 1878      In January of 1872, famous aeronaut and balloonist Samuel A. King, (1828 – 1914), of Boston, began constructing what would be, when completed, “the largest balloon ever made in America”.  The name of the balloon was to be “Colossus”.

     The balloon, it was reported, would have a circumference of 191 feet, with a capacity to hold 100,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas.  It would require 1,200 yards of Lyman cloth to make, which would be custom manufactured for this specific purpose.  To give the balloon added strength, twenty-four bands of four-thickness cloth would encircle the sphere.  The entire balloon would be coated with an oil based varnish to make it air tight in order to prevent the massive amount of gas from wicking out through the fabric.

     The pilot and passengers would be carried in two custom made cars suspended beneath the balloon, with one car situated above the other.  The upper car would be smaller than the lower one.  The top car would carry scientific instruments and passengers, while the lower one more passengers and ballast.  The entire balloon, empty, would reportedly weigh between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds, and when fully inflated would have a lifting capacity of 7,000 pounds, which could equate to fifteen or twenty passengers. 

     It was expected that the Colossus would be completed in time for its scheduled inaugural launch from the Boston Common as part of the city’s 1872 Fourth of July celebration.   Construction would take place at Mr. King’s residence and workshop located at 179 Chelsea Street in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  

     On June 6, 1872, as the balloon was nearing completion, it was seriously damaged by fire.  Portions of the balloon fabric had been spread out on a vacant lot between Chelsea and Watts Streets where it had received the first of four coats of the oil-varnish.  As the fabric was left to dry, a storm approached, so workmen carefully rolled it up to prevent moisture damage.  At some point after the storm had passed, the fabric was unrolled, at which time sections were found to be on fire due to spontaneous combustion caused by solvents in the oil-varnish. 

     Professor King was away in Philadelphia at the time making arrangements for the completion of one of the passenger carrying baskets, and was notified of the setback by telegraph.  

     Fortunately the balloon was salvaged, and repairs completed in time for it’s anticipated ascension from the Boston Common on July 4th.   On that day thousands came to watch the event.  This was to be Professor King’s 164th balloon ascension, and he was going to take twelve passengers with him on this historic flight.  “In my judgement,” King told a reporter, “although you can’t depend much on the weather, we will find ourselves about ten o’clock to-night somewhere up in the mountains of New Hampshire.”  His comment about the unpredictability of the weather would prove to be prophetic.  

     Most of the twelve passengers were newspaper men, but at least one was a scientist from Washington, D.C., who planned to record atmospheric conditions with scientific equipment.   While the balloon was being inflated on the Common, at least four citizens approached King with cash offers if he’d take them along on the flight, but all were refused.    

     The scheduled time for lift-off was 4 p.m.  Shortly after 2 p.m., as the balloon was about 80% inflated with Hydrogen gas, a violent storm suddenly appeared, and when the sky opened up spectators were sent running for cover in all directions.  The strong winds whipped at the balloon which swayed back and forth tugging at its moorings.  Whether it was struck by lightning or not is uncertain, but suddenly there was a loud boom as the Colossus abruptly exploded.  The fabric was in shreds and the massive giant immediately fell flat on the ground.  One newspaper described the scene afterwards as such: (The balloon) “…lay inanimate on the earth a dirty mass of cotton shreds, dragged and slimy in the rain and mud.”

      Fortunately there were no reported injuries due to the explosion.

     Fore more information about Prof. Samuel King click here. 

      Sources:

     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, VA.) “A Colossal Balloon”, (Copied from the Boston Advertiser, May 23, 1872.     

     The Tiffin Tribune, (Tiffin, Ohio), “The Largest Balloon In The World Ruined By Spontaneous Combustion”, (Copied from the Boston Advertiser), June 20, 1872.

     The New York Herald, “Boston’s Big Gas Bags – Serious Catastrophes To Science In Boston”, July 5, 1872

 

 

Rockville, CT. – September 19, 1911

Rockville, Connecticut – September 19, 1911

Rockville is a village within the town of Vernon, Connecticut.

     On September 19, 1911, a balloon ascension and double parachute drop was scheduled to take place at the Rockville Fair in the Rockville section of Vernon.  The two parachutists were identified as 19-year-old Edward Belhumeur of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Professor Marsh, address unknown.  Each was to use more than one parachute in their jump, cutting away from one before deploying another.  

     When the time came, the balloon began to ascend with both men aboard, but after rising to an altitude of several hundred feet it began to descend because it wasn’t buoyant enough to support the weight of both men.   As the balloon began to fall, Belhumeur made his jump.  His first parachute opened successfully, but after cutting away from it, his second chute didn’t have enough time to open sufficiently due to his being too near to the ground.  Belhumeur struck the ground and was transported unconscious to a hospital in Hartford, and it was reported that doctors held “slight hope” of his recovery. 

     Meanwhile, after being relieved of Belhumeur weight, the balloon once again began ascending with Marsh still aboard.  When he thought it had risen to a safe altitude, Marsh made his jump with the intent of using three parachutes.  However, when he opened the third he was almost too low to the ground, but his chute deployed enough to slow him down just enough so that when he hit the field he didn’t receive any life threatening injuries.

     Ironically, Belhumeur wasn’t scheduled to make the ascension with Marsh, for the professor usually did his parachute jumps with his son.  However, on this day, Marsh’s son was unable to attend so Belhumeur was asked to take his place.          

     At the time of the accident Belhumeur was married and had a ten-months old daughter.  

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Balloonist Falls At Rockville Fair – Substitute Aeronaut Fatally Hurt When Parachute Fails To Open”, September 20, 1911 

     The Evening Reporter, (Woonsocket, R.I.), September 20, 1911.

Early Connecticut Balloon Ascensions (And Mishaps) of Professor Alfred E. Moore

Early Connecticut Balloon Ascensions (And Mishaps) Of Professor Alfred E. Moore  

     

     Professor Alfred E. Moore, (1858-1890), was an early Connecticut aeronaut from the town of Winsted, who was perhaps best known for his balloon ascensions with photographer John G. Doughty, (1857-1910), during which some of earliest aerial photographs of the Nutmeg State were taken. 

     Professor Moore’s first balloon ascension took place at the former Cherry Park in the town of Avon, Connecticut, on July 4, 1885. 

    On the evening of July 29th, 1885, Professor Moore and another well known Connecticut aeronaut, Silas M. Brooks, (1824-1906), made a balloon ascension from Winsted, Connecticut, in a balloon named “Winsted” after the town.  This was Moore’s second balloon flight.  The Winsted was reported to be “the largest balloon now in existence”, measuring 80 feet height and 120 feet around, with a gas capacity of 30,000 cubic feet, and capable of lifting 15,000 pounds.   Unfortunately, this flight ended badly when the balloon encountered a severe storm.   

     The following excerpt is from a newspaper article which appeared in the Alexandria Gazette, (Virginia), on August 4, 1885, detailing the ill fated flight.

     “The ascension was made from the public square in the center of the town.  Brooks and Moore entered the car and gave the word.  The cables were cast off and instantly the big machine of silk and cordage sped up into the air like a rifle bullet.  The size of the balloon and its light load, for others had been expected to join the party in the car, made its ascent unusually rapid.  All went well until the aeronauts had reached an elevation of 2,000 feet.  Although they were above the clouds, they were caught in a storm, which proved to be the heaviest experienced in that part of the state for years.  Becoming terrified by the lightning they began to descend, and passed through the cloud in safety, although the balloon suffered from the heavy rain and the gas began to escape.  When within 100 feet of the ground the machine was rocking violently from side to side.  As they fell the two men threw out sand bags, and, losing too much ballast, the balloon careened wildly.  The gas escaped, the car was overturned, Brooks and Moore lost their hold on the slippery rail and fell headlong from the car.  The crowds that had been cheering wildly a few minutes before stood out in the pouring rain in their eagerness to see the descent, and did their best to catch the aeronauts as they fell.  Brooks was picked up badly hurt.  He is expected to die.  Moore’s injuries are not so serious.”

*********

     History has shown that Silas Brooks survived his ordeal and lived for another 21 years.           

     About a month after that perilous flight, Professor Moore made his third balloon ascension on September 3, taking with him as a passenger photographer John Doughty.  

     The following article appeared in the Morning Journal And Courier of New Haven, Connecticut, on September 4, 1885.   It relates the details of that third flight, and also mentions the ill fated flight of July 29th.

THE BALLOONISTS

Their Arrival And Reception In Southington – The Aeronauts Experiences On Their Trip  

     Southington, Sept. 3. – Look!  Oh, Look!  See that big thing up there.  Oh! Charlie, why what is it?  Don’t you know?  Why it is a balloon.  Such were the remarks overheard by the Courier correspondent last evening as Prof. Moore with his balloon passed over this town as briefly noted in the Courier yesterday. For about twenty minutes hundreds of people kept their eyes heavenward awaiting with no little anxiety to see where and when the thing would drop.  About 6:20 the balloon made a descent and was lost from the sight of our townspeople.  Numerous were the queries as to where the balloon had landed, but about 8 o’clock they were all dispelled by the news of the arrival of J. C. Messenger and the two aeronauts, Alfred E. Moore and John G. Doughty.  After they had partaken of a lunch they were found at the Bradley House by your correspondent and the following was gleaned from the highflyers: “We left Winsted at 5 o’clock with our balloon and apparatus and made the ascent very rapidly.  The balloon was inflated near the gas works, from which spot we made our start.  Several persons tried to prevail on us to  wait until Thursday, but we made up our minds that procrastination was the thief of time, so we did not calculate on being robbed.  As soon as the ropes were cut we started on our journey and when about one thousand feet above Winsted we photographed the spectators and from (the) time we landed in Kensington on the farm of E. J. Whitehead we took twenty views of the different towns, lakes, groves, and mountains over which we traveled.  We made the distance of forty miles in one hour and twenty minutes.  The balloon when inflated stands forty feet high and is seventy-two feet in diameter, and weighs, with the basket, 500 pounds, and has a capacity of 30,000 cubic feet for the reception of gas.  The gas used in ascension was common illuminating gas.  The occupants of the basket at the time of making the ascension were myself, Alfred E. Moore, and Mr. John C. Doughty, son of the leading photographer, and a carrier pigeon, which we let loose when over Bristol.”  Mr. Moore further stated that this was his third ascension and that the balloon, which is his property, is the second one he ever saw, the first being the Fourth of July last, when he made an ascension from Cherry Park alone and traveled nineteen miles in sixteen minutes.  On the 29th of the same month he, in company with Professor Silas M. Brooks, who has made 166 ascensions in his life, made an ascent from Winsted and came very near being killed by the balloon being torn open.  Professor Brooks had his body blackened in a horrible manner.  Mr. Moore says that the beauty of riding in a balloon is that your course is all the at “double tracked; no danger of a collision up there.”  The balloon was carted to the depot this morning by a man named Carey and was the object of much curiosity.            

*********

     On October 1, 1886, Professor Moore experienced another aeronautical adventure in a balloon.  On that date he ascended from Bristol, Connecticut, and when the balloon had risen to about 8,000 feet it was caught in a strong northeast wind current which carried it towards Hartford at a rapid rate.  While passing over the city Moore began jettisoning ballast, which caused the balloon to suddenly plunge downwards where it came down in some trees on Birch Mountain in Manchester, Connecticut.   Local farmers had to cut down four trees to rescue Moore from his badly wrecked balloon.

     Moore had traveled a distance of 35 miles from his starting point in only 25 minutes, giving him an estimated speed of 84 mile per hour.   

     Professor Alfred Moore died July 15, 1890.  The following announcement appeared in the Evening Star, (A Washington, D.C. newspaper) on July 16, 1890.

DEATH OF A WELL-KNOWN AERONAUT    

     Alfred E. Moore, president of the franklin Moore Bolt Company at West Winsted, Conn., died yesterday of Bright’s disease.  He was prominently known in the iron trade of the country and had achieved a wide reputation as an aeronaut, having made a number of ascensions.  One of his most notable ascensions was made June 17, 1887, from Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis.  The monster balloon which Moore had built at his Connecticut home for this particular ascension, at the expense of a newspaper , had been waiting a week for favorable air currents.  The voyagers were Mr. Moore, in charge of the expedition; H. Allen Hazen of Washington, connected with the United States Signal Service, and Prof. John G. Doughty, photographer.  The highest point reached was 16,000 feet, greatest altitude, probably, ever reached by a balloon in this country.  A premature descent was made near Centralia, Ill., 55 miles northeast from St. louis, the balloon having become nearly unmanageable.  The landing was very difficult and dangerous.  The event was eminently successful from a scientific point of view, according to Prof. Hazen’s report.  It was the intention of the projectors that the balloon should land somewhere on the Atlantic coast, thus proving the existence of an easterly air current, but the failure to work satisfactorily prevented this.    

*********

     Alfred E. Moore is buried in Forest View Cemetery in Winsted, Ct.  

     It is unknown how many balloon ascensions Professor Moore made during his aeronautical career, but the following ascensions are documented:

     September 9, 1886: Moore ascended from the fair grounds at New Milford, Connecticut, and landed about one hour later in Merwinsville. 

     September 22, 1886:  Moore ascended from the fair grounds in Watertown, Connecticut, and landed 18 miles away on the farm of E. C. Stillman in Meriden, Conn.

     September 30, 1886: Moore ascended in his new balloon, “The Comet”, from the Southington Driving Park.  This was reportedly The Comet’s first flight.      

     Sources:

     Morning Journal And Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “The Great Winsted Balloon”, July 27, 1885

     Alexandria Gazette, (Virginia), “Fell from A Balloon”, August 4, 1885

     Morning Journal And Courier, Balloon Ascension Announcements, Spet. 9, 22, & 30, 1886

     Morning Journal And Courier, “A Terrific Balloon Ride”, October 2, 1886

     Evening Star, (Wash. D.C.), “Death Of A Well-Known Aeronaut”, July 16, 1890  

     www.findagrave.com, memorial # 123726647

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  

 

The Balloon Le Centaur – 1906

The Balloon Le Centaur – 1906 

 

     The following articles concern a famous balloon know as Le Centaur, which was sometimes referred to in the press as simply “Centaur”.  The Le Centaur was well known for having set a new world distance record for a balloon in October of 1900 when it flew non-stop from Paris, France, to Kiev, Russia, a distance, (Reportedly measured, “as the crow flies”) of 1,304 miles.      

     The Le Centaur and two other balloons, the L’Orient, and the L’Union, were owned by Count Henri de la Vaulx of France, who brought all three to the United States in March of 1906.    

     The following article about a balloon race from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Bennington, Vermont, appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner newspaper on October 22, 1906.  Only two balloons were involved with the race, the Centaur, and the Orient.

     Note:  Although the article states the balloons are named Centaur and Orient, other sources identify them as being Le. Centaur and L’Orient.  

  SMALL BALLOON WINS CONTEST

     “The contestants in the balloon race which started out of Pittsfield at 10:23 o’clock this morning arrived here about 1 o’clock this afternoon.

     The Centaur , the larger balloon of the two, piloted by Charles T. Walsh and having as passengers Captain Charles F. Chandler and Major Samuel Reber, U.S. Signal Corps, reached the village several minutes ahead of the Orient.  After passing over the village in an easterly direction the balloon began to sink.  People at the house of Frank Cromack, by means of a glass, saw the balloonists throwing out ballast, but the big bag had apparently begun to lose gas.  An anchor was thrown out and caught in the trees so that the occupants were in no danger of injury.  The balloon still had sufficient buoyancy to keep clear of the trees and the occupants were apparently not at all alarmed.

     The smaller balloon, the Orient, piloted by Leo Stevens and containing Captain Homer W. Hedge, president of the Aero Club of America, passed over town in a northerly direction almost in a straight line along North Street and went out of sight shortly before 2 o’clock.

     Soon after the small balloon passed over the village the first of the five automobiles that started out in chase of the balloons from Pittsfield arrived , coming down South Street like an express train.  The men were covered with mud and said that the trip had been a hard one.  After taking in gasoline at Phelan’s Garage the automobiles again took up the pursuit of the larger balloon.

     At 3 o’clock observers at Arlington informed the Banner by telephone that the balloon was still in sight from there but far to the northeast and working north close to the mountain range.”

     Source: The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, VT.),  “Small Balloon Wins Contest”, October 22, 1906

     The following article appeared in the Abilene Weekly Reflector on October 25, 1906.

A BALLOON RACE

     “Pittsfield, Mass. Oct 23 – Two balloons, Centaur and L’Orient, which remained here after the aero-automobile race between balloons and automobiles for the Hawley Cup had been declared off last Saturday , participated in an endurance contest Monday which carried them miles over northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont.  The balloon L’Orient outsailed the Centaur by about three hours and a half, finally landing in the little mountainous town of Jamaica in Windham County, Vermont, 57 miles from the start.  The Centaur came down in Bennington, Vt., 30 miles from this city.

     The balloons rose from here at 10:20 a.m.  The Centaur carried Charles T. Walsh, pilot, and Maj. Samuel Reber and Capt. Charles F. Chandler, of the signal corps U.S.A.  L’Orient was piloted by Leo Stevens, who had as his companion Capt. Homer W. Hedge, president of the Aero Club of America.  The balloons were in sight of each other for about three hours and after them sped three automobiles which had been entered in the Hawley Cup contest on Saturday.  The Centaur was slightly behind L’Orient in crossing the Vermont border, and after getting over Bennington, Pilot Walsh decided to land.  The descent was successfully accomplished on the slope of Woodford Mountain.   

     The occupants of the Centaur said on landing that they considered their object accomplished and that their trip has been highly successful from a scientific standpoint.  The Centaur reached a height of 6,200 feet.

     After seeing the Centaur descend, Pilot Stevens of L’Orient decided to keep on.  Twenty-seven more miles of southern Vermont was traveled and at 4:30 L’Orient came down in Jamaica. 

     Mr. Stevens said after landing that L’Orient went 8,000 feet into the air.  Above the clouds the heat was so intense that all outside clothing had to be discarded.  At one time the thermometer registered 106 degrees.

     Twenty-five minutes after Centaur landed in Bennington an automobile driven by Floyd Knight of this city stopped by the side of the car.  Half an hour later an automobile owned by C. F. Bishop of Lenox arrived on the scene.

     Both these machines had followed the balloons as an experiment, although both airships were out of sight much of the time.”

     Source: Abilene Weekly Reflector, (Abilene Kan.) “A Balloon Race”, October 25, 1906       

     On November 3, 1906 the Centaur, or Le. Centaur, took off from Pittsfield, Mass. and landed in a clump of trees on Short Beach in New Haven, Connecticut.  (Some sources put the location in Branford.  Each town apparently has a “Short Beach”.)

     What was remarkable about the 126 mile trip (Some sources put the distance at 156 miles.) was that it was made in only two-and-a-half hours, which was considered very fast for a balloon to travel at that time.   The aeronauts aboard, Leo Stevens, and Captain Homer Hedge, reported that at one point the balloon moved along at 65 miles per hour.    News reports stated, “…the speed attained has not been equaled in this country.”

     The trip would have lasted longer, but the aeronauts didn’t want to cross Long Island Sound, so they quickly brought the balloon down from an altitude of 3,000 feet in only 90 seconds.  Captain Hedge suffered a minor injury climbing down from the balloon.

     The Le Centaur, was later wrecked in late May of 1907 when it again rose from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and developed two tears in the balloon envelope caused by a rapid expansion of the buoyant gas inside due to the heat of the sun.  The craft came down near Middlefield, Mass., and both men aboard, Leo Stevens, and Harry Markoe, escaped unharmed.  It was reported that the damage to the balloon was such that it could never be used again.

      Sources:

     The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.) “Two Men Fall A Mile”, May 30, 1907

     The Evening World, (NY), “Frightful Fall In A Burst Balloon”, May 24, 1907

     New York Tribune, “Autos Chase Balloon”, November 4, 1906

     The Barre Daily Times, (Barre, VT), Balloon Records beaten”, November 5, 1906

     Deseret Evening News, (Utah), “Remarkable Ballooning”, October 12, 1900

     New York Tribune, “To Fly To South Pole – Count de la Vaulx Arrives With Plans Of Daring Balloon Venture”, March 25, 1906 

New England Balloon Ascensions – 1909

New England Balloon Ascensions – 1909 

   balloon During the year 1909, 87 balloon ascensions were made in new England, 81 of which were made from Massachusetts, and 6 from Vermont.  The flights were made using 10 balloons and 15 pilots.

     A total of 137 people participated in these flights, 18 of them were women.

     The total air miles flown was 3, 774 miles.  The longest trip of the year was made July 11, 1909, by a balloon with 5 people aboard that flew from North Adams, Massachusetts, to Topsham, Maine.      

     Source:

     (This article was run in numerous newspapers, but with different headlines.)

     The San Francisco Call, “Eastern Aeronauts Make Good Aerial Records During Year”, January 25, 1910

Professor Donaldson’s Unexpected Voyage To Connecticut – 1873

Professor Donaldson’s Unexpected Voyage To Connecticut – 1873

    prof-donaldson-july-10-1919 Professor Washington Harrison Donaldson, (1840-1875) was a Balloonist from reading, Pennsylvania, known for making numerous ascensions during his career.  What was perhaps his most infamous ascension occurred on October 7, 1873, when he left New York on what was to be a transatlantic flight to England, but was forced down in New England instead.  What makes this flight by Donaldson historic is that it was the first known attempt by an aeronaut to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air.

     Since the first balloon flight in France in 1793, it had been every aeronaut’s ambition to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air, yet each knew that such a trip in a balloon was impossible, for once aloft a balloon was at the mercy of prevailing winds.  Then in 1843, an aeronaut named Professor John Wise came to the conclusion that such a trip was feasible if the balloon could reach a certain altitude where he believed there was a constant flow of air blowing from west to east.  If a balloon could reach that current of air, he speculated, it could easily cross the ocean.  Professor Wise petitioned Congress for money to develop his idea and to build a balloon, but he was turned down.   

     Professor Donaldson made his first balloon ascension from Reading, Pennsylvania, on August 30, 1871.  Within a year he’d established his reputation as an aeronaut and began to develop plans to build a balloon with which to attempt a trans-Atlantic trip to England utilizing the air currents Professor Wise believed existed.

     Initially Donaldson approached Boston municipal authorities asking for funds with which to build his balloon, and offered to begin his historic trip from that city, but was turned down.  Undaunted, he went to New York, and received funding from the Daily Graphic newspaper.  Thus, Donaldson’s balloon was christened, “The Daily Graphic”.   

     Donaldson’s balloon was massive, holding 300,000 square feed of gas, beneath which hung a life boat for use in the event of a water landing that was stocked with enough provisions to last forty days. 

     The balloon took off from the Capitolino Grounds in Brooklyn, New York, at 9:19 a.m. on the morning of October 7th.   Accompanying Professor Donaldson on his trans-Atlantic journey were Alfred Ford, and George Ashton Lunt. 

     A description of the ascent was reported in a local newspaper as follows: “The balloon arose with immense velocity.  The drag rope depending from the concentrating ring had been stretched out along the ground, and as the great air ship soared skyward it ripped the drag rope through the grass with a motion that can only be compared to an infuriated whale dragging a harpoon rope.  The crowd cheered lustily, the aeronauts responding by waving their hats and blowing a fog horn.”

     When the balloon reached about 5,000 feet prevailing winds began pushing it eastward, and then to the northeast carrying them over Westchester County, New York, and then over Connecticut.  At about 1:15 p.m. they passed over a mountain in Litchfield County Connecticut and found themselves above a valley surrounded by thick clouds, heavy rain, and gusty winds.  The storm was a violent one with strong winds spinning and buffeting the craft.  Then the balloon was caught in an updraft taking it high into the sky before it suddenly began falling back towards earth at great speed.  It descended to tree- top level, and was pulled across the tree tops about 30 feet off the ground.  At this point the men decided to abandon the balloon and jump.  Donaldson and Ford leapt at the same moment, but Lunt was delayed.  The sudden loss of weight caused the balloon to suddenly shoot skyward again taking Lunt with it.  Before long it disappeared back into the storm clouds. 

     Donaldson and Ford alighted on the farm of Charles Lewis in North Canaan, Connecticut, relatively unhurt.  At this point there was nothing they cold do for Lunt.   

     In his statement to the press Lunt later recalled his experience:  “We were attacked by a tremendous squall of wind and rain at fifteen minutes past one o’clock, and were driven near the earth with frightful velocity.  Everything was thrown overboard without avail, and as we were dashed to the earth Donaldson and Ford sprang out, and the balloon shot into the air, bearing me with it, and was speedily in the storm-cloud again, and being whirled about in the most alarming manner.  I shouted to Donaldson for directions but could hear no reply, and was left to my own resources,  The bag was shaking above me with awful force, and I could see nothing, so thick was the cloud.  I seized the valve cord and attempted to open it.  Could not open it.  The cord became entangled with the neck.  Suddenly tree tops shot up through the fog, and in an instant the balloon was whirling through branches.  I climbed out of the boat to a place above the ring, and as the balloon rushed into a thicket of trees I swung myself out and dropped among the branches.

     The boat scraped over me and detached my hands.  I dropped to earth, surprised to find myself unhurt.  I started to walk back in the supposed right direction, and met four men running after me.  I offered them a large reward to capture the balloon, then out of sight.  They have gone in pursuit in the locality of Canaan, Connecticut. I was driven to the station by Dr. William Adams, where Ford and Donaldson arrived soon after.”

     The balloon was later recovered in a severely battered condition about a mile from the Lewis farm .  

     Professor Donaldson was later lost in a balloon ascension from Chicago over Lake Michigan in 1875.  Neither he nor his balloon were recovered.  

     To learn more about Professor Donaldson’s balloon flights, see the 1875 book “History of Donaldson’s Balloon Ascensions”, (With illustrations.)

     Updated May 5, 2017

     An interesting newspaper article relating to the missing Professor Donaldson appeared in The Morning Herald, (Wilmington, Del.) on December 22, 1876. 

The Morning Herald

December 22, 1876

     Sources:

     New York Daily Tribune, “Voyaging In The Sky”, July 6, 1859 

     The Rutland Daily Globe, “The Ocean Balloon”, October 9, 1873

     Yorkville Enquirer, (George A. Lunt’s statement), October 16, 1873       

     Wikipedia – Washington Harrison Donaldson  

     Book, “History of Donaldson’s Balloon Ascensions”, Complied by M. L. Amick M.D., Cincinnati News Co., 1875

 

An Unusual Balloon Flight – 1910

An Unusual Balloon Flight – 1910 

   old balloon  At 1:30 p.m., on November 29, 1910, the balloon Cleveland ascended from Pittsfield, Massachusetts with four men aboard.  There was the pilot, A. L. Stevens, and with him were three passengers, L. M. Taylor, M. M. Morris, both of New York City, and S. F. Beckwith, of Garrison, N.Y.

     The balloon drifted westward and passed from Massachusetts to New York.  While over the Hudson River the aeronauts encountered a blinding snowstorm.  As if that wasn’t perilous enough, a huge flock of geese, estimated by the men to  contain a thousand birds, suddenly encountered the balloon and began bumping and scraping against it, threatening to put holes in the fabric.  The birds began to panic, for the swirling wind left them as helpless as the airmen, and for nearly an hour the flock surrounded the balloon honking and squawking the whole time.

     At one point a goose crashed into the men in the basket, where one of them captured it.

     The ordeal ended almost as suddenly as it began and the balloon landed in the town of Amenia, New York, at 5:45 p.m., 44 miles from Pittsfield.

     Source:

     Boston Evening Transcript, “Ballooning in 1910”, by William Carroll Hill, January 4, 1910.       

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