Savin Rock Balloon Ad – 1908

1908 Advertisement

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 

Westfield, MA. – June 29, 1905

Westfield, Massachusetts – June 29, 1005

     On June 29, 1905, an aeronaut identified as B. S. Tirrell was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Hampton Pond in Westfield.  The plan was to rise in the balloon to about 4,000 feet.  and there he was to be shot out of a cannon which was suspended beneath the balloon, then deploy his parachute and land.  However, the firing mechanism of the cannon failed to go off, and Tirrell found himself trapped in the cannon.  Despite the failure of the firing mechanism, an external fire was created which set the balloon on fire.  The balloon then began to loose altitude with Tirrell helpless to do anything.  When the balloon was about thirty feet from the ground, the ropes holding the cannon burned through and the cannon fell striking the ground.

     Tirrell was badly bruised and treated for internal injuries. 

     The reason for the malfunction could not be ascertained.  

     Tirrell was employed by the Boston Balloon Company. 

     Source:

     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I.), “He Fell From Burning Balloon”, June 30, 1905. 

 

 

Concord, N. H. – August 28, 1901

Concord, New Hampshire – August 28, 1901

    On August 28, 1901, well known Aeronaut Leo Stevens made a balloon ascension and parachute drop at the fair grounds in Concord.  He parachuted safely, but when his unmanned balloon came down it fell upon the high voltage main feed wire to the city’s electrical plant, causing a city-wide blackout. 

     One of those who responded to repair the break was 19-year-old Harry Quint, a lineman for the electric company.  While going about his work up on a pole, he was electrocuted and fell to the ground breaking his neck.  He died instantly. 

     On August 29, Stevens made another ascension.  In this instance, the shell which exploded and releases his parachute set fire to his clothing and he was badly burned. 

     Source:

     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I. ), “Received Fatal Shock – electric light lineman killed at Concord”, August 30, 1901.    

Bellingham, MA., – August 26, 1901

Bellingham, Massachusetts – August 26, 1901

Early postcard view of Hoag Lake, Bellingham, Massachusetts

     On the afternoon of August 26, 1901, well known aeronaut Leslie Haddock was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Hoag lake in Bellingham.  When the balloon was let go and began soaring upward.  Just after leaving the ground the rope holding the parachute to the base of the balloon suddenly let loose and the parachute fell to the ground, leaving Haddock suspended beneath the balloon as it continued upwards. The balloon then drifted over the theatre building and then over the lake  before it collapsed and fell into the water. 

    The balloon was retrieved and re-inflated, and Haddock prepared for another try.  This time the balloon ascended without difficulty, but when it came time for the parachute drop, Haddock discovered that the parachute was tied too tightly to the balloon and could not be released.  With no way to get down, Haddock was forced to remain on his perch as the balloon rose higher and higher.  Finally the gas in the balloon began to loose its buoyancy, and the balloon began to descend.  Haddock landed safely among some cottages near the lake.

      In the evening, Haddock made his ascension and parachute jump. 

     Source:

     The Evening Call, (Woonsocket, R. I.), “Parachute Failed To Work”, August, 27, 1901.    

 

 

Caledonia, Vt., County Fair – 1890

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

Stolen Balloon – 1907

From The Washington Times, November 4, 1907. 

The Washington Times
November 4, 1907

Professor James K. Allen Ad – 1870

Ad from August, 1870

     To learn more about Professor Allen, click here.

Norwalk, CT. – October 17, 1907

Norwalk, Connecticut – October 17, 1907

     On October 17, 1907, well known aeronaut Charles Jewell of Canton, Ohio, was performing balloon ascensions and parachute drops in Norwalk.  In one instance, the balloon rose to the desired altitude and Jewell dropped away.  All was going well until he approached the ground and realized that the breeze was carrying him towards some railroad tracks, and at that moment the Boston Express train was speeding along in his direction.  Realizing that he was going to land directly in front of the oncoming train, he let loose of his parachute and dropped forty feet to the ground.  He’d aimed for some bushes, but missed, and struck a fence instead, and was seriously injured.  Meanwhile the parachute landed directly in front of the train and was ground to pieces.      

     Speaking about past mishaps in his career, Jewell was later quoted as saying, “My parachute has failed to open, my gas bag has caught fire and I have passed through thunderstorms, but give me all of them in preference to an express train.  My only chance was to drop.  I tried to land in some bushes, but I struck a fence.  The parachute could have been used for confetti after the express passed over it.”

     Source:

     The Waterbury Democrat, “Train Blocks Parachutist – It was jump or be ground to pieces”, October 19, 1907

Savin Rock, CT., Balloon Ascension – 1896

Click on image to enlarge.

1896 Advertisement

Crescent Park, R. I., Balloon Ascension – 1894

     This may have been the first balloon ascension from Crescent Park. 

Click on image to enlarge.

The Providence News
August 15, 1894

 

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       

William Van Sleet – Aeronaut, Balloonist

    William Van Sleet, (Born ? – Died ?), of North Adams, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and sometimes reported as living in New York, was a well known New England aeronaut who made balloon ascensions in the early 1900s. 

     The first mention of Mr. Van Sleet in any newspapers that research could find appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner in 1907, and had to do with a car accident which occurred at “Shedd Bridge”, “east of Walloomsac”.  Although both vehicles suffered damage, there were no injuries.   There is some documentation which indicates that Van Sleet, besides being an aeronaut, also worked as a chauffer.      

      Beginning around 1906, balloon ascensions began to be a regular occurrence in the Berkshires section of western Massachusetts, and the towns of Pittsfield and Adams became involved in a rivalry of sorts for the bragging rights and the tourism dollars that each ascension would bring.  It was around this time frame that the Aero Club of Pittsfield was established and Van Sleet became a member.    

     The first reference to Van Sleet’s aeronautical career was found in the Daily Kennebec Journal, July 29, 1908.  The brief snippet stated in part: “The Aero Club of Pittsfield will dedicate their new balloon, the “Heart of the Berkshires” tomorrow at 10 a.m.”  The pilot was Leo Stevens, a prominent aeronaut of the time, with passengers Allan R. Hawley of New York, and William Van Sleet of Pittsfield.  

     In light of the dedication, it was quickly announced that the balloon “Boston” belonging to the Boston Aero Club would ascend at the same time from the town of North Adams, and there would be a “race” between the two to see which could cover the greatest distance.  The “Boston” was to be piloted by Charles Glidden, another prominent aeronaut of the time, with his passenger, Professor H. H. Clayton of the Blue Hills Observatory. 

     Both balloons were of the same size, 38,000 cubic feet.  The “Heart of the Berkshires” took off as scheduled, but only traveled about eight miles before coming down near Wahconah Falls in Dalton, Massachusetts. 

     The “Boston”, on the other hand, didn’t fair much better.  After being caught in a windstorm and carried up to 10,000 feet, the balloon began to fall rapidly and its occupants were forced to discharge all available ballast.  It landed safely on a farm about six miles from its starting point.    

     Exactly who announced that a race would take place is not recorded, but Mr. Glidden later told the press that he was unaware of any scheduled race between the two balloons, and said that each had made independent ascensions.    

     Balloons of this era used hydrogen or coal gas, both of which were poisonous if inhaled.  In mid August of 1908, Van Sleet was scheduled to make a balloon ascension from Pittsfield in the “Heart of the Berkshires”, when he was seriously affected by the release of gas from a malfunctioning valve.  This was to be his fifth ascension to help him qualify as a balloon pilot for the Pittsfield Aero Club.  When the balloon was nearly filled with gas, it was discovered that the valve cord near the top of the balloon had failed to uncoil, so Van Sleet climbed up seventy-five feet of the balloon’s netting to remedy the situation.  When the valve unexpectedly popped open he was hit in the face with a rush of escaping gas.  After closing the valve he made his way back to the ground where he nearly collapsed.  He was attended to by three doctors, all of who warned him not to make the flight in his condition.  Van Sleet ignored the warnings, and made the flight anyway with Dr. Sidney S. Stowell as a passenger.       

     Later that same month Van Sleet made a solo trip in “Heart of the Berkshires”.  He ascended from Pittsfield and traveled ninety miles before landing near Montgomery, New York.  He’d made the trip alone as part of his pilot qualification process.    

     Van Sleet made another flight on September 2, which lasted 32 minutes and landed in South Deerfield, Mass. His two passengers were Frank Smith of Boston, and Oscar Hutchinson of Lennox, Mass.  

     On September 10, 1908, Van Sleet took off from Pittsfield at midnight and sailed eastward across the state covering a distance of more than one-hundred miles before landing safely in the the town of Kingston, Massachusetts, about two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. He had as a passenger Dr. Sidney Stowell. 

     On the same night Van sleet took his overnight flight, Charles Glidden did the same, and took off at midnight from Springfield, Massachusetts.  There was no mention of any competition between the two aeronauts, and neither balloon was in sight of the other throughout the night.  Glidden’s balloon landed safely in the town of Bridgewater, Mass.   

     Most of Van Sleet’s ascensions were without incident, but a flight he made in October of 1908  was anything but routine.  On the afternoon of October 29, he took off from the North Adams Aero Park in the balloon “Greylock”, with M. Monard, or Mennard, as a passenger.  Strong 40 mph winds were blowing at the time and it reportedly took forty men to hold the balloon in place while the two men climbed into it.  Van Sleet was advised to abort the flight but didn’t take heed.    

     The “Greylock” began its ascension at 3 p. m. and was quickly caught in a strong air current which propelled it at 80 mph in a southeast direction.  As the balloon approached Mt. Hoosick the men were forced to jettison ballast in order to clear the top of it. 

     As the balloon approached the town of Whately, Massachusetts, the anchor was dropped.  It caught in the tops of some trees, then a stone wall, and then tore away part of a barn roof.  Realizing that the anchor was useless, Van Sleet pulled the rip cord allowing the gas to escape.  The balloon came down hard from an altitude of seventy-five feet and both men were pitched out, but neither was seriously injured.  The balloon had covered forty miles in thirty minutes.    

     A few days later Van Sleet made another ascension in the “Heart of the Berkshires”, only this time he flew in and above a snowstorm, something that was extremely unusual for the time.   With him on the flight was William C. Hill.     

     On November 17, 1908, Van Sleet made a rough landing in the town of Rockville, Connecticut.  He’d attempted to land in an open lot, but when the anchor rope broke the balloon drifted into the center of town where it tore down some electric and fire alarm wires, and crushed a grape arbor when it landed in a private back yard.  Van Sleet was not injured, but the chief of police arrived on scene and promptly “arrested” the balloon ordering it held until financial damages could be settled.  This incident made national news, for it was believed to be the first case in which a balloon had been “arrested”.   

     On April 19, 1909, Van Sleet and his passenger Oscar Hutchinson came down in a wooded area of Biddeford, Maine, after traveling 160 miles, making it one of the longest balloon flights of the time.

     In June of 1909, Van Sleet flew a honeymoon couple from Pittsfield to the outskirts of Boston.  The balloon took off shortly after midnight on June 21, and drifted eastward throughout the early morning hours.  At about 4:00 in the morning, Van Sleet spotted  the Blue Hills Observatory and prepared to land.  The anchor caught a tree in an orchard and the balloon came down with barely a bump. 

     At the time of the flight a Boston newspaper was offering a trophy to the balloon pilot that could ascend from western Massachusetts and land closest to the Boston Common within a year.  Van Sleet had landed within fourteen miles, thereby breaking the previous record of twenty-six miles.   

     On July 11, 1909, Van Sleet set a new distance record for himself when he landed in Topsham, Maine, a distance of 176 miles.  His previous record set in April had been 160 miles.   

     By May of 1910, Van Sleet had completed fifty balloon voyages. 

     On June 5, 1910, Van Sleet with two newspapermen aboard landed the balloon “Massachusetts” in the center of the town of Bennington, Vermont, about a half-mile from the famous battle monument.  This was the second time that a balloon had landed in that town.      

Bennington Evening Banner
March 26, 1910
Click on image to enlarge.

      An advertisement found in a 1910 newspaper indicates that Mr. Van Sleet was the sales manager for the Tower Motor Company of Adams, Massachusetts, which sold “Overland” automobiles.   

      On October 8, 1911, Van Sleet and a passenger, Jay B. Benton of Boston, traveled 200 miles in the balloon “Boston”, ascending from Pittsfield, Mass. and landing in Lakewood, New Jersey.  This was the longest trip to date made by the “Boston”, and it took three hours.    

     The following year, on October 30, 1912, Van Sleet and Benton completed the longest balloon flight to date in New England when they traveled at night in the balloon “Springfield” from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Pittston, Maine, a straight-line distance of about 250 miles.  

     It is unknown exactly how many balloon ascensions William Van Sleet made during his career. 

     As of this writing, no further information about his career was found.       

Sources:

     The Bennington Evening Banner, “Van Sleet in Auto Crash”, October 18, 1907 

     The Morning Journal-Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “Air Race Today”, July 29, 1908.

     Daily Kennebec Journal, “Will Dedicate New Balloon At Pittsfield”, July 29, 1908, pg. 4 

     Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Aeronauts Exciting Adventure”, July 30, 1908.

     The Evening World, (N.Y.) “Warned Of Death Peril By Doctors Goes Ballooning”, August 19, 1908.   

     Evening Star, “Qualifying For A License”, August 29, 1908, pg. 2. 

     The Morning Journal-Courier, “Flight of Thirty-Two Minutes”, September 3, 1908, pg. 9. 

     New York Tribune, “Balloons in Moonlight Journey”, September 11, 1908, pg. 5

     New York Tribune, “80 Miles An Hour In Air”, October 31, 1908

     The Bennington Evening Banner, “Aeronauts Go A Mile A Minute” November 2, 1908. 

     The Morning Journal- Courier, “Balloon in Snowstorm”, November 7, 1908.    

     The Marion Daily Mirror, (Ohio) “A Balloon Is Arrested”, November 18, 1908, pg. 2

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Balloon In Tree Top”, April 20, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Van Sleet Best Yet”, June 22, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, “New Record For Van Sleet”, July 12, 1909

     Bennington Evening Banner, Overland Car Advertisement, March 26, 1910.

     Bennington Evening Banner, “Balloon Lands At Bennington Center”, June 6, 1910. 

     Daily Kennebec Journal, “Makes Quick Trip”, October 9, 1911. 

     The (NY) Sun, “Take Long Trip Above Clouds”, October 31, 1912. 

 

 

 

    

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.  

 

Attleboro, MA. – July 31, 1907

Attleboro, Massachusetts – July 31, 1907

    The last week of July was Old Home Week in the town of Attleboro, Massachusetts, and part of the celebration included balloon ascensions. 

     On July 31, aeronaut William Canfield was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute drop from Capron Park.  When he tried to lift off, the balloon didn’t rise due to a malfunction with the  hand flap to which the parachute was attached.  Its probable that there was also a strong wind blowing for instead of rising, the balloon tilted and was dragged along the ground until it crashed into three small trees.  Canfield was thrown from the balloon, reportedly “with great force”, and knocked unconscious.  He was carried to a nearby home on County Street where he received medical attention.

     Canfield responded to the treatment, and an hour later announced that he still wanted to make the ascension, but this idea was overruled by the committee sponsoring the event.     

     Source:

     The News-Democrat, (Providence, R.I.), August 1, 1907.

Rutland, Vermont, Balloon Ascensions

Click on articles to enlarge.

Middlebury Register (VT.)
July 14, 1858

Middlebury Register
July 14, 1858

Vermont Daily Transcript
(St. Albans, VT.)
September 17, 1868

Portland (Me.) Daily Globe
July 10, 1873

Burlington Weekly Free Press
April 16, 1908, p14

Spirit of the Age
(Woodstock, VT.)
April 18, 1908

Orleans County Monitor
(Barton, VT.)
June 23, 1909, p.6

Orleans County Monitor
(Barton, VT.)
June 23, 1909 p.6

Barre Daily Times
July 28, 1909

Orleans County Monitor
August 18, 1909

Bennington Evening Banner
November 18, 1909

Spirit of the Age
(Woodstock, VT.) December 4, 1909

Spirit of the Age
December 4, 1909

Herald & News
(West Randolph, VT.)
January 27, 1910 pg. 3

Burlington Weekly Free Press
February 22, 1912, p.6

Vermont Phoenix
September 8, 1916

 

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).   

 

Harlow M. Spencer – Aeronaut, Balloonist

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The Daily Exchange
(Baltimore, MD.)
September 22, 1858

Connecticut Western News
September 2, 1897

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.

 

Pittsfield, MA. – March 10, 1906

Pittsfield, Massachusetts – March 10, 1906 

     In early March of 1906, two balloons were brought to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to take part in a race scheduled for Sunday, March 11th  One balloon, the Aero Club No. 1, “American”, was to be piloted by famous New England aeronaut Leo Stevens; the other, “L’ Atonette”  by well-known French aeronaut Charles Levee.  Both balloons were secured to moorings at the Pittsfield Gas Works and the inflation of them began.  A guard was posted to supervise the inflation and to keep the curious at bay.  

     At about 9:23 a.m. on the morning of March 10, a sudden gusty windstorm passed through the area which tore both balloons from their moorings.  Both were reportedly about 3/4 fill with gas by that time, and neither were manned.   

     The “L’ Atonette” was dragged across an open area and became snagged on an iron stake and was torn apart.  Meanwhile, the “American” reportedly “shot up with tremendous force”, and disappeared from view.  It was last seen heading in an easterly direction towards Boston. 

     There were no reported injuries. 

     It is unknown what became of the “American” balloon.    

     The race was postponed until new balloons could be obtained.  It is believed to have taken place in October of 1906. 

     Source:

     The Daily Kennebec Journal, (Augusta, ME.), “Not On Program – Balloons At Pittsfield, Mass. Break From Moorings”, March 12, 1906, page 4.   

 

 

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

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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

 

First Balloon Constructed In Maine – 1889

First Balloon Constructed in Maine

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From the Aroostook Republican

September 18, 1889

Portland Daily Press

Sept. 2, 1889

Staunton Vindicator

April 26, 1889

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.

——-

 

Some Perilous Early Balloon Ascensions

Some Perilous Early Balloon Ascensions

          The following newspaper article appeared in the New York Tribune on February 23, 1908.

COLD TRIP IN BALLOON

Stevens and Forbes in Peril – Food and Sand Freeze.

     Springfield, Mass., Feb. 22 – Benumbed with cold, which was so severe as to freeze their food, their bags of wet sand, and render their registering instruments useless, A. Holland Forbes and Leo Stevens, of New York, who ascended in a balloon at North Adams early this afternoon, came to earth at Wales, a village three miles from the Connecticut line, southeast of this city, after a trip of about ninety miles.  When the aeronauts left North Adams that hoped that they might reach Boston, but although they found air currents which swept them in a general easterly direction the extreme cold forced them to descend.  Soon after passing Springfield it was found that the cold had so contracted the gas in the bag that the balloon was descending rapidly.  The aeronauts decided to break an unwritten law of balloonists and to throw over some hard substances  in order to lighten the balloon.  At this time they were rapidly approaching Wilbraham Mountain, and it was evident that they could not clear the top of that eminence unless the balloon were lightened.

     One of the anchors attached to the car was drawn up, and, used like a pick, served to break the frozen sandbags so that lumps of the sand could be thrown over.  Considering it inadvisable in their half frozen condition to attempt to make a longer trip, the balloonists decided to descend.  They made a landing in a road in the woods near the village of Wales two and a half hours from the starting time.

———-

     On the afternoon of June 19, 1908, well known aeronauts Charles J. Glidden and Leo Stevens were passing over West Brattleboro, Vermont, in a balloon when they heard two gunshots, the bullets from which struck the balloon. Both men were positive the shots had come from a large white barn on a farm below.  

     Investigation by authorities led to the arrest of two men.  One claimed the other had fired the shots from a rifle thinking the balloon was a toy, after which he took the gun away from his companion.  Both men were held for trial, and one was ultimately convicted.

     Sources:

     The Brattleboro Reformer, “For Shooting At Glidden’s Balloon”, June 26, 1908

     The Brattleboro Reformer, “Aerial Assault Case Up For Today”, July 3, 1908     

———-    

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, VT.), September 13, 1911. 

SHEARMAN’S LONG FLIGHT

Williams College Aeronaut Suffers Severely From Exposure.

     H. P. Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society who made a balloon ascension from Aero Park, Pittsfield, yesterday morning at 2 o’clock, landed in Auburn, Maine, 200 miles distant by air line, yesterday morning about 6 o’clock.  He was in an exhausted condition as the result of exposure, and was taken to a hospital in Auburn for treatment.  He was in an unconscious condition when found on the farm of H. B. Estes, but no bones were broken, nor was there any indication that he was otherwise injured.  The flight is the longest ever made from Pittsfield.  The nearest to this record was made by William Van Sleet and Oscar Hutchinson when they landed in Biddeford, Maine, 165 miles air line from Pittsfield.

————

     The following newspaper article also relates to H. P. Shearman’s balloon flight.  It appeared in the Arizona Republican, September 13, 1911.

AERONAUT ALMOST FROZEN TO DEATH 

College Professor Has trying Experience in Long Flight Across the Old Bay State.

     Auburn, Maine, Sept. 12. – Half benumbed from his flight through the rain and cold, and unable to make the outlet valve or rip cord of his balloon work, President H. P. Shearman of the Williams College Aeronautical Society, climbed through the ropes and with a knife slashed the silken bag, then fell back into the basket unconscious.  The balloon dropped swiftly to the earth and tonight Shearman, resting comfortably in a local hospital, is able to tell of his experience.  He ascended at Pittsfield, Mass., early this morning, and flew to this city (Auburn, ME.), 200 miles, the longest flight ever made by a single aeronaut.  Soon after ascending he ran into heavy rain, which, turning to hail, caused bitter cold.  Feeling the effects of the weather, Shearman several times tried to land, but was unable to deflate the huge bag.  His strength was nearly gone when he resorted to his knife. 

———-       

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner on November 14, 1911. 

WILLIAMS  STUDENTS’  TRIP

Balloon Landed Near Clairmont, N. H. – Rescued By Farmers

     The balloon containing three Williams College students which ascended from Pittsfield Saturday made a landing near Clairmont, N. H., ;ate Saturday afternoon.  The balloon bumped the tops of forest trees where the anchor had caught for some time before the three students were discovered by some farmers of Unity, a small town near Claremont, and rescued from a perilous position.  After some of the smaller trees had been cut away the aeronauts were able to slide down their anchor rope.  The sky voyagers were H. Percy Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society and pilot of the balloon, the Stevens 21, H. R. Corner of Cleveland, O., and J. A. Jones of New York City.  Unity is 77 miles from Pittsfield.

———-    

 

 

N. Y. To Boston Balloon Airline – 1908

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Sun, (New York, N.Y.), on July 21, 1908.

     N. Y. – BOSTON BALLOON LINE

Company Forming To Carry Freight and Passengers by Dirigibles.

     Boston, July 20. – Whipple, Sears & Ogden, at the request of Charles J. Glidden, are preparing organization papers to incorporate the American Aerial Navigation Company, to be created for the purpose of manufacturing and operating aerial devices and the establishing of aerial routes for the transportation of freight and passengers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

     Mr. Glidden anticipates that within the next eighteen months the new company will be carrying passengers and merchandise by the “air line” between New York and Boston, either by use of the dirigible, balloon, or aeroplane.  He believes that with relay stations near Springfield and New Haven the trip can be made 300 days in the year, the one from Boston to New York during daylight, and from New York to Boston in seven or eight hours.

     The first experiments will be made with small dirigibles with a capacity of one or two passengers in addition to the operator.  Stations will be established close to the street car lines on the outskirts of cities with suitable facilities to house the dirigibles and supply any loss of gas en-route.

     An inexpensive plant to manufacture hydrogen gas will be in operation at each station.  As the dirigibles will travel at an average height of 500 to 800 feet very little loss of gas should take place.

     Pending the establishment of the air lines and to familiarize people with aerial voyages, ascensions will be made from Pittsfield and North Adams in the spherical balloons.

    The people interested I the new company hold options on a large manufacturing plant for aerial apparatus and are in negotiation for the manufacture of dirigibles.  The form of dirigibles to be adopted will depend upon the success of the experiments now being carried on by the Governments of the United States and France.  “Aerial travel,” says Mr. Glidden, “will be, when thoroughly established, the cheapest and safest form of transportation.”

 

The First Intercollegiate Balloon Race – 1911

The First Intercollegiate Balloon Race – 1911 

     On Saturday, June 3, 1911, a unique balloon race between college aeronautical clubs was held at North Adams, Massachusetts.  Four institutions were represented; Harvard University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Williams College.  The race was organized by the Williams College Aeronautical Society and was billed as the “first event of its kind”. 

     Two prizes were to be awarded: one for longest duration in the air, and the other for the longest distance traveled.  

     The University of Pennsylvania team won both prizes with their balloon, Philadelphia II, piloted by A. F. Atherholt, and captained by George A. Richardson.   After a little more than seven hours in the air they landed safely in West Peabody, Massachusetts, a distance of 115 miles from North Adams.   The other teams landed earlier after having travelled lesser distances.  

     According to a small article which appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vermont), on March 15, 1911, (“Students Balloon Race”), the Williams Aeronautical Society challenged the Amherst College Aero Club to a distance contest which was scheduled to take place on May 20, 1911, slightly more than two weeks before the race set for June 3.  It’s unknown of this contest between the two learning institutions took place however, the article ended that Williams College was also planning an intercollegiate race, and that Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Tufts, M.I.T., and Amherst would all be invited to participate, and that the race would “probably” be from North Adams.            

     The following three newspaper accounts contain further information of the intercollegiate race of June 3, 1911.

     ———-

     The following article appeared in The Topeka State Journal, (Topeka, Kansas), May 20, 1911.

COLLEGES WILL RACE BALLOONS

Silver Cups Offered For Distance And Time In Air.

     North Adams, Mass., May 20. – The first intercollegiate balloon race ever held will start from the town on June 3 under the auspices of the Williams Aeronautical Society.  Every eastern college which boasts an aeronautical society has been invited to participate.  Silver cups will be awarded to the balloons covering the longest distance and remaining the longest time in the air.

————

     The following article appeared in The Calumet News, (Calumet, Michigan), June 2, 1911.

COLLEGE BALLOON RACE

First Event Of Its kind Ever Attempted Starts Tomorrow.

     North Adams, Mass., June 2. – Everything is in readiness for the start from North Adams tomorrow of the first Intercollegiate balloon race in the history of aeronautics.  The race will be under the auspices of the Williams College Aeronautical Society, and every college and university in the east boasting an aeronautical society has been invited to compete.

     Williams, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania have balloons already on the field and it is possible that Harvard may make arrangements to start the race.  All of the balloons are of 35,000 cubic feet capacity.  The balloons will be cut loose within five minutes of each other.  Leo Stevens, the noted New York aeronaut, has accepted an invitation to act as referee and starter.  A silver loving cup will be awarded to the balloon covering the greatest distance, and another cup to the on longest in the air.

———–   

     The following National News Association article appeared in The Richmond Palladium And Sun Telegram, (Richmond, VA.), on June 2, 1911.    

COLLEGE BALLOON RACE TO BE HELD

Four Institutions Represented In The Event Which Starts Saturday.

     North Adams, Mass., June 2. – Eight intrepid young men, all working with a vim on the aviation field of Williams College were the talk and attraction of North Adams today.  The youths, busy laying out gas-bags and nets of four great aerostats, will start tomorrow in the first intercollegiate balloon race ever held.  Harvard, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, and Williams are the contestants.

     After being dined and made much of by the local college element yesterday and last night, the embryo aeronauts arose at an early hour today and straightaway made their course to the aero field, where they became busy-ness personified.  Although all the young men have made several voyages in the upper regions, they have experienced considerable difficulty in the work laying out the big balloons preparatory to their inflation.  The Williams College Cadets were on guard around the aviation field and assisted the balloonists in their work.      

     Each one of the balloons entered in the race is 35,000 cubic feet capacity.  Dartmouth’s entry, the “Boston” will be piloted by Jay B. Benton.  H. Percy Shearman will guide the destinies of the Williams balloon.  The leader in college aeronautics, George Atwood Richardson, who organized the Intercollegiate Aeronautical Association, will carry the hopes of the University of Pennsylvania.

     None of the balloon crews figure on being aloft more than thirty-six hours, but each balloon has been stocked up with provisions for a three days’ voyage to provide against contingency.

     A massive silver cup has been presented by Clifford Black and Howard Scholle, New York Williams Alumni, for the balloon covering the longest distance.  A second cup will be presented for duration of sustained flight, and another one for the balloon making the next longest distance.

     The college aeronauts are also eligible to the trophies of the New England Aero Club in event that they break any of the New England records of the year.  

     A. Leo Stevens, prominent in aero-planing and ballooning circles will act as referee and as starter of the race.  He will send the balloons off at five minute intervals.

     The president of the Intercollegiate Aeronautical Association, which is giving the race under the auspices of Williams College, is George Atwood Richardson, who will pilot the Pennsylvania balloon.  The association has recently filed papers of incorporation as a membership corporation under the laws of the state of New York.  It represents all the colleges – aero clubs of North America and is officially recognized as the college branch of the national Council of the Aero Club of America. 

————   

     The following year, the Intercollegiate Balloon Race was held in Kansas City, Missouri.  Williams and Dartmouth colleges participated.  

Nahant, MA – July 4, 1881

Nahant, Massachusetts – July 4, 1881

     On July 4, 1881, Professor George Augustus Rogers sailed in his balloon from Point-of-Pines in Revere, to Nahant, Mass. where his balloon suddenly deflated causing him to land on telephone wires.  It was reported that he received “injuries from which he never fully recovered.”

     Also see accident for Boston, Mass. – July 4, 1892 under Massachusetts Civil Aviation Accidents on this website for more information about Professor Rogers.   

     Prof. Rogers was also involved in another balloon accident in June of 1888.   

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

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

 

Leslie Haddock – Aeronaut And Showman

LESLIE HADDOCK – AERONAUT AND SHOWMAN 

Bellingham, Massachusetts -August 20, 1901

 balloon

     It was August and it was hot, yet modesty standards of 1901 dictated that men wear jackets and women don ankle length skirts with layers of petticoats underneath.  However, the heat wasn’t enough to deter the large crowds who had come to witness a balloon exhibition given by famous aeronaut, Leslie Haddock, but as the balloon rose into the evening sky, it quickly became apparent that something had gone terribly wrong.     

     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.    

Early postcard view of Hoag Lake, Bellingham, Massachusetts

Early postcard view of Hoag Lake, Bellingham, Massachusetts

One such exhibition was scheduled for the third week of August of 1901, to be performed by a man named Leslie Haddock, a well known aeronaut in his day and no stranger to hair raising experiences.  He arrived on Monday, August 19th, and began his exhibition by making two ascensions that day, much to the delight of the cheering crowds. 

     The following evening, as crowds of people emptied out of the theatre after a lively performance, they gravitated to an open area where Mr. Haddock was in the process of inflating his balloon.  As the numbers of spectators grew so did their anticipation.  Finally, about 10 o’clock, it was time for lift-off.  Haddock gave a signal, and workmen released the rope that held the balloon earthbound.  The craft soared several hundred feet into the air and drifted towards the lake.  A flare tied to a rope at the bottom of the balloon allowed everyone on the ground to track the its progress. Suddenly the craft began falling at a rapid rate and the crowed let out a collective gasp.  Some pointed skyward, as if by doing so others would see better, while still others stated what seemed obvious.  “He’s in trouble!”, and “Something’s wrong!”

     The balloon continued dropping near the boat house and the crowd began running towards the shore to get a better look. When the craft was twenty feet from the water Haddock leaped over the side and dropped into the lake making a dramatic splash. The balloon, now relieved of its weight of human cargo, suddenly rose upward and drifted away; the glowing flare still indicating its position in the dark sky.   

     Looking out over the lake there was no sign of Haddock.  Had he drowned?  Should someone jump in and try to save him?  A murmur swept through the crowd as this was debated, followed by a sigh of relief when Haddock’s head suddenly bobbed to the surface.  He waded ashore to the thunderous applause of the happy spectators who now had an exciting story to tell when they got home.

     Haddock later explained that the accident was due to a sudden tear in the upper portion of the balloon which had allowed the gas to escape, and supposed the fabric had failed due to age.  He went on to say that he had been worried about the craft’s air-worthiness, and had taken a parachute along as a precaution, but never had the chance to use it.

     Hoag Park remained in operation until 1922, when the property was sold to new owners.  The decline in trolley car use seems to have been a factor.   Unfortunately, the new owners were unable to bring the place back to its former glory, and over time the park simply faded into history.  

     This wouldn’t be the last adventure Mr. Haddock would have in a balloon.  Several years later in July of 1908, he took part in a balloon race in Chicago where his entry, the 87,000 cubic foot Cincinnati, became entangled in electrical wires upon take-off. 

 Sources: 

(Woonsocket) Evening Call, “Dropped Into The Lake”, August 24, 1901, Pg. 4

New York Times, “Nine Balloons Off In Race To Coast”, July 5, 1908

 

Lewiston, Maine – September 8, 1908

Lewiston, Maine – September 8, 1908

    On the evening of September 8, 1908, Professor Joseph La Roux was scheduled to demonstrate an airship (the Tiny Davis) before a crowd of 15,000 people at the Maine State Fair.  However, due to a late afternoon drop in air temperature, La Roux, who weighed 172 pounds, was too heavy for the ship, and it was decided that a an assistant, Fred L. Owens of Haverhill, Massachusetts, would take his place.  (Owens only weighed 118 pounds.) 

     It was nearly 6 p.m. when Owens took off in the airship. His intention had been to rise to an altitude of a few hundred feet, start the gasoline powered motor, and make a few turns in the air before landing back at his starting point on the ground.  However, once aloft, the gasoline engine to the airship malfunctioned and failed to reach full power leaving the ship to the mercy of the air currents.  

     Owens sat helplessly as the ship rose to 3,000 feet and drifted in an eastwardly direction.  He tried working the engine but to no avail.  He finally had to pull the rip cord on the bas bag and allow the gas to escape, scraping some tree tops as the ship fell.   The airship came down in the village of Bowdoia Center, 22 miles from its starting point.     

     Sources vary: Owens was born either in 1886 or 1890. He began his aeronautical career around 1903, and became affiliated with Professor La Roux about a year later.  One source says he was from Haverhill, Mass., and another had him living at 58 Harwood St., Boston, Mass. 

     In October of 1905, he’d made a six-parachute jump at Trenton, New Jersey, earning him the championship of the world title.   

     Almost a year after his adventure in Maine, Owens found himself in a similar situation over Baltimore, Maryland.  In this instance thousands watched and followed his progress as his airship was buffeted by strong breezes before finally crash-landing on the roof of a drug store.  He was not injured. 

     Another misadventure occurred in Savannah, Georgia, on November 4, 1909, when he made a forced landing in a railroad yard.   

Sources:

     Daily Kennebec Journal, (Augusta, ME.), “Aeronaut Owen Has Very Narrow Escape”, September 9, 1908.   

     (Woonsocket) Evening Reporter, “Boy Has Wild Ride When Airship Runs Away”, Sept. 9, 1908.      

     Daily Kennebec Journal, (Augusta, ME.), “Owens Tells His Story”, September 10, 1908. 

     The Washington Herald, “Aeronaut Falls To Top Of Store”, August 1, 1909.

     The Birmingham Age Herald, “Wild Adventure of Aviator”,  November 5, 1909

 

 

 

 

Stafford Springs, CT. – October, 1888

Stafford Springs, Connecticut – October, 1888

     An advertisement in the Morning Journal and Courier of New Haven, Connecticut, stated a fair would be held in Stafford Springs on October 16 and 17.  The following article appeared different newspapers around the country.

Straight Down For 2,000 Feet Before His Parachute Opened

     A exciting incident took place in connection with the balloon ascension at Stafford Springs, Conn., last week.  “Professor Hogan, the parachute “artist” who had been engaged to make a balloon ascension, had waited all day for the wind to die down.  About 5:30 o’clock, before 3,000 spectators, he inflated his monster machine and ascended gradually to a height of 4,000 feet, or nearly a mile.  At that enormous height the balloon with its occupant appeared to be about the size of a frog.      

Balloon ascending with parachute attached to the side.

     According to his program, the aeronaut at this point fixed his balloon so that it would fall to earth alone, and prepared to make his daring descent by means of the parachute which was attached to the side of the balloon by a small cord.  The parachute, when inflated, is a sort of cone shape, the base of which looks like an umbrella, the sides being numerous cords and the apex being a small iron ring, to which the Professor hangs by the hand.

    Mr. Hogan jumped from the basket at that terrible altitude with the iron ring in his hand.  The cord attaching the chute to the balloon at once broke, leaving the dare-devil with his flimsy apparatus nearly a mile from earth.

     A terrible thing now happened.  The cords had become entangled and stiffened by the rain, and prevented the great chute from expanding it broad surface in the air, through which the aeronaut was now falling with frightful speed.  The people below, looking up with wide-open mouths, could see nothing but a dark line becoming longer at each instant, and coming toward the earth with the speed of lightning.  “My God,” cried a looker-on, “Hogan’s gone.”  A woman clutched frantically a strange man at her side as the body in the air was seen to careen to one side as if unstable.  At this point, when fully one-half of the descent had been made in but a few seconds, and when not one of the 3,000 spectators expected aught else but a catastrophe, the great surface of the chute was seen to expand and thence there was only a graceful, easy fall that turned every groan into a smile.

     When the performer reached the ground he said that at the beginning of the descent he realized his danger, but could do absolutely nothing but clutch the ring.  He was unable to breathe, his head began to swim, faintness overtook him, and his sensation was that his fingers were relaxing their hold.  At this point, however, the entangled cords that held in-closed the folds of the chute were snapped by the enormous pressure of the air, and he was saved from certain death.

Source: The Sun, (N.Y.), “Straight Down For 2,000 Feet Before His Parachute Opened”, October 28, 1888, page 5,   (From the Springfield Republican)           

 

Early Balloon Ascensions At Savin Rock, Connecticut

Early Balloon Ascensions At Savin Rock, Connecticut

     By Jim Ignasher

 

Savin Rock Advertisement
August , 1895

     September 15, 1893, was a perfect late summer afternoon at Savin Rock, where crowds had gathered to see “Prince Leo – The Boy Aeronaut”, perform a balloon ascension and parachute drop. Leo was sixteen, and had been giving such exhibitions for the past three years. At the appointed time, the balloon was released and quickly rose to three-hundred feet where a fabric panel suddenly failed and allowed the buoyant gas to escape. The craft plummeted, and crashed into the top of a tree located next to live electrical wires. The impact threw Leo onto the wires where he was severely jolted before falling to the ground. He was badly cut and in shock, but he would survive, and would later go on to become one of the world’s best known aeronauts while performing under his real name; Albert Leo Stevens.      

     Much has been written about the former amusement park at Savin Rock, but it seems that little attention has been given to the aeronautical exhibitions designed to draw visitors to the well known resort.  

     There was a time when balloon ascensions drew large crowds, and in the mid 1800s, due to their novelty, simply watching one ascend was enough to satisfy. However, as time when on, “aeronauts” were obligated to perform greater feats of daring such as leaping from balloons using parachutes. Some performers took it a step further by jumping with two or more parachutes, cutting away from one, free-falling, then deploying another. And still others would be shot from a tube or “cannon” suspended beneath the balloon.    

     Balloon ascensions at Savin Rock began in the late1880s, with the vast majority taking place without incident. Those that failed made headlines, which at times drew larger crowds to the next scheduled event.    

Savin Rock Advertisement
August, 1897

     A case in point was one of the earliest recorded ascensions to be made from Savin Rock. On the afternoon of August 7, 1889, a man identified as Professor Northup took off from the railroad grove and achieved an altitude of nearly 6,000 feet at which time he dropped using his parachute. The chute opened quickly, but Northup came down in the water of Long Island Sound about 1,200 feet from shore. He wasn’t wearing any type of floatation device, and might have drowned had it not been for a passing boat that came to his rescue.

     Another aeronaut to perform at Savin Rock was Miss Louise Bates, one of the few female aeronauts of the day. On July 25, 1894, she was to perform a high-altitude parachute drop, but a mooring pole cut the fabric of her balloon as it was released allowing gas to escape. The leak wasn’t realized until the balloon had risen to 150 feet. When it began to fall she leapt clear, but her parachute failed to open. Her fall was broken by the upper branches of a tree where she was rescued miraculously unhurt.         

     The following summer a man calling himself “Daring Donald” had a remarkably similar experience. Fortunately when his chute failed he landed in an area of soft ground. He survived his injuries, and went on to give future performances.

     Many aeronauts went by the title of “professor”. On July 25, 1903, Professor Dennis Tatneaud’s parachute opened perfectly, but prevailing currents brought him over the water where he splashed-down near the West Haven Jetty. He managed to cling to two oyster stakes until he was rescued one hour later, thoroughly exhausted from his ordeal.  

     However, it wasn’t just mishaps that made the news. August 27, 1903 was the opening of a three-day balloon festival at Savin Rock. One performer was Professor Robert Mack, who soared to the height of a mile before being fired from a “cannon” amidst a blaze of fireworks. He landed safely at the ball fields in what was described as “remarkable ballooning”. The balloon used by Mack was reportedly one of the largest in use at the time.

     Unfortunately some accidents ended tragically, such as the ascension made by Theodore French on August 17, 1907. When his parachute failed to open he landed atop a piano factory and was killed.

Savin Rock Advertisement
June, 1908

     By 1908, airships were beginning to replace balloons as a way to draw crowds for they could do things balloons couldn’t.

     In June of 1908, famous aeronaut Charles Hamilton arrived with his airship and drew quite a bit of attention. On June 13, Hamilton took off from Savin Rock bound for New Haven, and after circling a stadium in that city, had to make an emergency landing on some railroad tracks. After making some repairs, he took off again, but encountered strong winds which blew him out over Long Island Sound. There he was forced to land in the water where he was rescued by a passing boat.    

 Balloon ascensions continued at Savin Rock at least until 1915. By this time World War I was raging in Europe, and after the war former military pilots took to the “barn storming” circuit which quickly eclipsed balloon ascensions as a way to draw crowds.    

Sources:

Morning Journal And Courier, (New Haven, CT.), “Drops In The Sound”, August 8, 1889 

Waterbury Evening Democrat, (Waterbury, CT.), “Accident and Incident – Daring Donald Falls from Balloon At Savin Rock”, July 24, 1891.  

Hartford Courant, “An Aeronaut’s Fall – Prince Leo Nearly Loses His Life At Savin Rock”, September 16, 1893

The Daily Morning Journal And Courier, “Parachute Did Not Work”, July 26, 1894 

The Daily Morning Journal And Courier, “Balloonist Recovers”, July 27, 1903

The Washington Times, “Balloonist Pattneau Drops Into The Sea”, July 27, 1903.  (The name of the balloonist should be “Tatneaud”, not “Pattneau”.)

The Daily Morning Journal And Courier, “Remarkable Ballooning – Boy Shot From cannon A Mile In Midair At Rock”, August 28, 1903 

The Topeka State Journal, (Topeka, KS.), “He Drops To Death”, August 19, 1907

Evening Post, “Dashed To Pieces – Fate Of Aeronaut”, August 20, 1907

Wood County Reporter, (Grand Rapids, WS.), Aeronaut Is Dashed To Death”, August 29, 1907

New York Times, “Airship Falls Into Sound”, June 14, 1908

 

 

 

 

 

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

Chelsea, MA – June 17, 1839

Chelsea, Massachusetts – June 17, 1839 

     Louis Anselm Lauriat, (c. 1786 – c. 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. 

     The following article appeared in the Vermont Phoenix on June 28, 1839, referring to an ill fated balloon ascension made by Lauriat on June 17, 1839.   The article had first appeared in the Boston Transcript.

     THE BALLOON-PERILOUS VOYAGE

     The wind was West North West, with a strong breeze, when Mr. Lauriat ascended in his balloon from Chelsea yesterday afternoon; and as he rose from the garden of the Chelsea House, where the balloon was inflated, he was driven by the force of the wind against branches of a tree, and five of the cords by which the cars were attached to the aerostat were severed, and Mr. Lauriat was in imminent danger of being thrown out, – the balloon, however, was wafted on, at a low elevation, towards Shirley Point, where Mr. L endeavored to effect a landing, and letting off a portion of the gas, descended to the ground.  The balloon was dragged some distance and came in contact with another tree, by which two more cords were severed, and left it retained only by a part of the netting.

     There was no assistance at hand, and the balloon, after being disengaged from the tree, was dragged, in despite of all Mr. L’s efforts to stop its progress, into the water, and continued skipping over the surface, sometimes completely immersing the aeronaut in the water, and again elevating him a hundred (feet) in the air.  There were several vessels in the bay which endeavored to assist him, but were unable to reach him.  The balloon was driven some eight or ten miles from land, and Mr. L became faint, discouraged at the moment by anticipation of a watery grave.  In this perilous condition he continued until Capt. Paine of the schooner Fame, which was coming up the bay, discovered his situation, and launched a boat, which was rowed to his assistance, and happily, the progress of the balloon was intercepted, and the aeronaut rescued, just as the balloon rolled from the netting, and soared “free and unconfined,” away, and was soon lost to view.

     Mr. Lauriat was kindly received on board the schooner and carried to Gloucester, where he arrived about 9 o’clock.  As he was very anxious to return home immediately, Mr. Mason, of the Stage House, generously conveyed him to Lynn, where he arrived at 1 o’clock this morning, pretty well satisfied, we hope, that ballooning is not the best mode of making gold leaf.

*********

     Another source (see below) lists the captain of the schooner as being a Captain John Pierce, not Paine, of Welfleet, Massachusetts. Lauriat was reportedly dragged through the sea for one hour and fifteen minutes over a distance of thirty miles in the direction of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, which is located north of Boston.   

     The balloon was not recovered, and was said to have cost $1,000, which was a huge sum of money in 1839. 

     *********

        Two years before the above incident, Mr. Lauriat may have been the first to use a balloon to drop leaflets.  The following news brief appeared in the (New York) Morning Herald, July 17, 1837,

     “Temperance Shower – Lauriat, at his last balloon ascension, distributed a shower of temperance tracts on the country around Boston.  This cold water shower had a very reviving effect upon the friends of the cause.  The utility of aerial navigation can no longer be questioned.”   

*********

     On June 17th, 1840, Lauriat made his 34th balloon ascension from Boston, and was in the air for nearly two hours.  

     Sources:

     Vermont Phoenix, “The Balloon – Perilous Voyage”, June 28, 1839 

     Lauriat’s – 1872 to 1922, “Being a Sketch of Early Boston Booksellers With Some Account of Charles E. Lauriat Company and its Founder, Charles E. Lauriat.”, Written for the Boston Evening Transcript by George H. Sargent, 1922.    

     Morning Herald, (New York) July 17, 1837     

     The Pilot And Transcript, June 22, 1840

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

     The earliest known balloon ascension to take place in the state of Massachusetts occurred on September 3, 1821, from the Washington Gardens on Treemont Street in Boston.  The pilot was a well known aeronaut by the name of Louis Charles Guille, who had begun making balloon ascensions in New Jersey in 1818.  The balloon landed on Ten Hills Farm in Somerville, a town just to the north of Boston.   

     Not only was this flight the first of its kind in the Bay State, but it also triggered what might be the first lawsuit involving a balloon.  Ten Hills Farm was owned at the time by a man named Swan, who sued Aeronaut Guille for damage to his vegetable crops. 

     The facts of the case were stated in a newspaper article which appeared in the New Ulm Review, (a Minnesota newspaper), on December 21, 1910, as part of an article about the potential liability attached to air travelers who may inadvertently cause damage to private property on the ground.  The case involving Louis Charles Guille was cited as a president even though it had occurred 89 years earlier.     

     The article stated in part:

    ” The facts are there stated as follows: Guille ascended in a balloon in the vicinity of Swan’s garden and descended into his garden.  When he descended, his body was hanging out of the car of the balloon in a very perilous situation, and he called to a person at work in Swan’s field to help him in a voice audible to the pursuing crowd.  After the balloon descended it dragged along over potatoes and radishes about thirty feet, when Guille was taken out.  The balloon was carried to a barn at the farther end of the premises.

     When the balloon descended more than 200 persons broke into Swan’s garden through the fences and came on his properties, beating down his vegtables and flowers.  The damage done by Guille with his balloon was about $15, but the crowd did much more.  The plaintiff’s damage in all amounted to $90.

     It was contended before the justice that Guille was answerable only for the damage done by himself and not for the damage done by the crowd.  The justice was of the opinion, and so instructed the jury, that the defendant was answerable for all the damage done to the plaintiff.  The jury accordingly found a verdict for him for $90, on which the judgement was given and for costs.”     

     The sum of ninety-dollars was a significant amount of money in 1821.  Guille appealed, but the decision was upheld.  The court ruled in part that Guille was a trespasser, (although not intentionally), and that his shouts for help “induced the crowd to follow him”, which in turn made him liable.  

      Sources:

     New York Tribune, “New Laws For Air Travel Soon To Be Broached”, October 24, 1909, page 3.  

     New Ulm Review, (Minnesota), “Air Trespassing May Be Costly”, December 21, 1910      

     Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society, www.massaerohistory.org

     Book: “North Jersey Legacies: Hidden History From The Gateway To The Skylands”, by Gordon Bond, The History Press, 2012

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Washington Standard, (Olympia, Washington), on May 18, 1894.   It is unclear what results, if any, were learned from this experiment, which appears to be the first ever of its kind. 

BALLOONING FOR LOST SOUNDS 

Uncle Sam’s Aeronaut Will Find Out What Ails Boston’s Fog Horns

New York World

     Thomas S. Baldwin, the aeronaut and gymnast, connected with the ballooning department of the signal service and war departments, has been ordered to Boston, where he will conduct a series of interesting and important experiments in aeronautics.  Vessels approaching Boston can be heard through their fog horns 15 miles out at sea, but when within three miles off shore the sound of the fog horn whistle is absolutely lost.  The question is, where does the sound go?

     It is proposed to investigate the upper atmosphere at a distance of 3,000 feet in the hopes of ascertaining whether the sounds from the whistles and fog horns do not go upward, as Mr. Baldwin believes such sounds do.  A monster balloon will be anchored to a government vessel, and will be allowed to ascend to any required distance by means of a wire cable worked by steam.  The vessel will cruse about off Boston and neighboring points to a distance of 10 or 15 miles, and sounds will be made from whistles and horns.  When within three or four miles of shore it is believed that the aeronaut in the balloon can ascertain whether the sound in getting lost ascends.

     In the coil of wire that is attached to the balloon is a telephone wire, by means of which Baldwin will communicate with officials on board the ship.  Major Livermore, of the government service with his staff, will assist the aeronaut in his work, which will probably occupy some months, and perhaps a year.  After these experiments are concluded, Baldwin will turn his attention to experiments in war ballooning, for the benefit of the War Department.

    

        

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  

 

Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909

Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909

     On Tuesday, September 16, 1909, the balloon “Massachusetts” made an ascension from Pittsfield, Mass., and while more than 7,000 feet in the air became the first balloon in aviation history to have a Masonic meeting conducted in its basket.   The Massachusetts was owned by the Aero Club of New England.

     The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, (of Guildhall, Vermont) on September 24, 1909. 

     “Aerial Lodge, No. 1, F. & A. M., was formed last Thursday afternoon in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, it being the first meeting of the kind ever held, and the lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  The balloon ascended from Pittsfield, and the Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey.  This item has a peculiar interest to our readers in Essex County, inasmuch as Jay B. Benton, formerly of Guildhall, is senior warden of the new lodge.”  

     The following article appeared in the Evening Star, (Washington, D. C. ), on September 25, 1909, page 3.   

     “The latest in the way of novelty is the institution of a Masonic lodge in a balloon more than a mile in the air.  This happened at or near Pittsfield, Mass., recently, when Aerial Lodge A. F. & A. M., was instituted in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, this being the first meeting of the kind ever held.

     The lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  J. J. Van Valkenburg of South Framingham was worshipful master; Jay B. Benton of Winchester was senior warden, and Charles J. Glidden of Boston junior warden.

     The Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey, the details of which were recounted when the party descended at Greenfield, Mass., after considerable difficulty in getting the huge gas bag and its numerous trappings out of the forest.

     The start was made in the afternoon at 2:05 o’clock from the grounds of the Aero Club of New England, at Pittsfield.  At the highest point recorded, 7, 200 feet, the Masonic ceremony took place.”  

Rockville Collegiate Balloon School – 1917

Rockville Collegiate Balloon School – 1917

Updated June 4, 2017 

     The Rockville Collegiate Balloon School was established in September of 1917 by William and Francis Maxwell as a training school for perspective army observation balloon pilots.  Rockville is a village within the town of Vernon, Connecticut, however, the school was actually located in the former Windermere factory building in the neighboring town of Ellington.   

     The school was set up to train up to 100 students at a time.  During preliminary study, cadets were paid $33 a month, which included food, clothing, and a place to sleep.  After two months of courses, they were sent to training camps to continue their studies, during which time they would be paid $100 per month.  Upon graduation they would be commissioned lieutenants in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and receive $2,000 per year.

     The school was administered by Everard Thompson.  The Chief Pilot was Nason Henry Arnold, who held pilot license #14 with the Aero Club of America.  Nason had been flying balloons for fourteen years, and had participated in the International Balloon Race held in Germany in 1908.  Another instructor known to have taught at the school was Walter Jewell. 

     Three students known to have attended the school are; E. H. Millikan, E. L. Taylor, and W. S. Sweeney. 

     The first balloon ascension from the school took place on September 11, 1917, when a balloon containing Nason H. Arnold and Walter Jewell reached an altitude of 6,500 feet as it drifted over the town of Willimantic and beyond.  The balloon came down on the farm of Joseph Nosal, located in Windham near the Lebanon town line.   

     The second flight took place two days later on September 13, and nearly ended in disaster.  This ascension involved one of the school’s largest balloons, the 80,ooo cubic foot America II, which had once flown over Europe from Paris, France, to Berlin, Germany.   

     The balloon left Rockville at 8:45 a.m. with six persons aboard.  There was the pilot, Nason Arnold, and his assistant pilot, Walter Jewell, as well as William and Francis Maxwell, and two students, Edward Lee Taylor and his brother William Sloan Taylor.  They landed safely near Vernon Center, where the Maxwell brothers got out and two others took their place.  The balloon then ascended for the second time that day and was carried off by a gentle breeze, but wound up crashing into some treetops near the town of Coventry, the jolt of which severed the netting holding the huge gas bag, which broke loose and floated away on its own, leaving the passengers and gondola stuck at the top of a tree.    

     Apparently someone had seen the balloon make its unexpected plunge, for rumors of a severe if not fatal accident quickly circulated sending people rushing into the area.  Fortunately, such was not the case, and all injuries were minor.   The run-away balloon was recovered about seven miles away. 

    About a week later, the balloon Cleveland ascended with Nason Arnold, student E. L. Taylor, and a cameraman identified as W. F. Bergstron of Hartford, Connecticut.  Bergstron worked for the Mutual Film Corporation, and it was his job to film the ascension from the point of view of the occupants of the balloon to be used for lecture purposes at the school.   The Cleveland rose to 5,200 feet as it passed over Willimantic, and landed safely in the town of Hampton, 35 miles from its starting point.  

     On October 18, Nason Arnold made an ascension with Congressman John Q. Tilson, a member of the House Committee on Military Affairs.  After a three hour flight the balloon landed at Long Meadow, Massachusetts.  

     On October 24, 1917, a balloon from the Rockville Collegiate Balloon School made an ascension in Springfield, Massachusetts as part of the Liberty Loan Campaign.   

     On November 1, 1917, what was described as a “monster military balloon” came down in a swamp in Putnam, Connecticut, near the home of Judge Charles O. Thompson.  There were no injuries, and large crowds gathered while considerable effort was done to remove the balloon.  

     Sources:

     Images of America, Vernon and Historic Rockville, by S. Ardis Abbott & Jean A. Luddy, Arcadia Press, 1998

     Air Service Journal, September 6, 1917, Page 277.

     Norwich Bulletin, “Various Matters”, August 17, 1917, page 5

     Norwich Bulletin, “Government Balloon Comes From Rockville”, September 12, 1917, page 2

     Norwich Bulletin, “Second balloon Flight”, September 14, 1917, page 2

     The Hartford Courant, “Balloonists In Tree Top And Gas bag Sails Away, Courant Man Right There”, September 14, 1917

     The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, (VT.), “Camera Man Has Trip In Balloon”, September 25, 1917

     Norwich Bulletin, “Various Matters”, October 24, 1917, page 5

     Aerial Age Weekly, “Congressman Up In The Air”, October 29, 1917

     Norwich Bulletin, “Putnam”, November 2, 1917

A Balloon Mystery, Cumberland, R.I. – 1888

A Balloon Mystery, Cumberland, Rhode Island – 1888

     About 7:00 p.m. in the evening on September 28, 1888, an unmanned balloon came down in a cusp of trees on the Razee Farm in the Cumberland Hill area of the town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  The craft had some signs of age to it, and was in poor condition. 

     When the balloon was recovered and laid out in an open area to be examined, it was found that there was a large slit in the side. The neck of the balloon contained a nine-inch valve made of wood and leather, on which was found a name written in pencil: “Carl Myers, Mohawk, N. Y.”

     Further investigation revealed a paper tag from the American Express Company marked “162, owner S. Y. Baldwin, Freehold, N. Y.”   There was also found a piece of silk marked “Buffalo, 27-413 lbs. Dec. 1887. F. Cloud.”

     The seams along the balloon measured 40 feet 6 inches. 

     The ropes attached to the balloon’s netting appeared old, but the netting containing the balloon appeared to be new.  The balloon’s iron ring was two feet in diameter and made from a welded piece of 1/2 inch gas pipe.

     Nobody knew where the balloon had come from, or if an aeronaut had met with misfortune.  Severe weather had been over southern New England the day before and it was wondered if that could have played a role.   

     The story was picked up by a few newspapers around the country, all reporting that a handwritten note was found pinned to the balloon’s basket.  Two versions of what the note supposedly said were reported in different papers.  The first, “We have perished in the clouds”, and the second, “Met death in the clouds”.   The note was allegedly written on a small piece of newspaper from Buffalo, New York.   However, The Woonsocket Evening Reporter, a newspaper that covered Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and its neighboring town of Cumberland, had this to say about the note: “The story was told that in the car was found a slip of paper on which was written, “Met our death in the clouds,” but a reporter who examined the contents could not find any such paper.”   

      Carl Myers was well known in balloon circles at the time, for besides being an aeronaut, he was also a scientist, inventor, and manufacturer of man-carrying balloons which he built and sold from his “balloon farm” in upstate New York.   When contacted about the balloon found in Cumberland he said he knew nothing about it, and offered that it might be one he’d sold.  The only balloon he’d “lost” was at a July 4th exhibition in Willimantic, Connecticut, but it had been recovered in southern Rhode Island.     

Advertisement from The United Opinion newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, June 17, 1887.

The ad was promoting the Lyndonville, Vt., July 4th Celebration.

      Myers wife, Mary, was also a well known aeronaut who went by the professional name of “Carlotta”.  On September 26th Carlotta and a man she worked with, Leon A. Dare, were to have participated in a balloon race at Syracuse, New York, and on September 28th Carlotta was to have made an ascension at Lockport, New York.  Both Carlotta and Mr. Dare were found to be safe, and unconnected with the balloon found in Cumberland.

     “I have sold a number of balloons,” Myers was quoted in the Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “but cannot for  the life of me surmise who this balloon could belong to.  I think someone must have pinned the paper on the balloon when found, so as to make a sensation.” 

     Famous Rhode Island aeronaut, Professor James Allen of Providence, went to the Razee Farm to offer his opinion.  Allen noted that the balloon was made of cotton cloth and not silk.  Measurements revealed that the balloon was 27 feet in diameter, which would give it a gas capacity of 8,000 cubic feet, thereby making it large enough to only lift the weight of one person during an ascension.  Allen speculated that based on how the ropes were attached, and the fact that there was no anchor or drag rope, the balloon may have been used for trapeze work, and that the performer may have fallen during an exhibition, or landed at some location where the balloon then escaped.  If it had been filled with hydrogen gas then his theory was plausible. 

     The mystery, it seems, was cleared up when a small news item appeared in The United Opinion, a newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, on October 5th.  It read:     “Chief of Police Child of Providence has received a letter from S. Y. Baldwin, the parachute jumper, concerning the balloon found in Cumberland Thursday night.  Baldwin parted company with it at Freehold, N. J. that afternoon. “

     No further details were given, and thus far research has failed to find any.

     The news item states “Freehold, N. J.” but based on what was reported earlier about the American Express tag found in the balloon, it was most likely referring to the small town of Freehold, New York, which is about 145 to 150 miles “as the crow flies” from Cumberland, R.I.   

     This news item about the letter was not found in the Woonsocket Evening Reporter.

      Sources:

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “That Balloon”, September 29, 1888, page 1 

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “Derelict Air Ship”, September 29, 1888, page 4

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “That Vagrant Balloon”, October 1, 1888, page 4 

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “Balloon Mystery Yet Unsolved”, October 2, 1888, page 4

     New York Times, “The Lost Balloon”, September 30, 1888

     The United Opinion, (VT.) “Condensed News”, October 5, 1888

 

Near Middlefield, MA – May, 1907

Near Middlefield, Massachusetts – May, 1907

(Exact date is unclear.)  

     At 8 a.m. on a morning in late May of 1907, aeronauts Leo Stevens and Harry Maroke took off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the famous balloon Le. Centaur.  (This was the same balloon that had carried Count Henri de la Vaulx in a record breaking trip across Europe from Paris, France, to Kiev, Russia in October of 1900.)     

     The balloon quickly rose to 6,000 feet as the winds carried it on an eastern course.  The craft reportedly rose so rapidly that the heat of the sun caused the gas inside to expand to the point where holes blew out in two different places creating leaks and a sudden loss of buoyancy.  As the balloon began falling the men quickly ejected all ballast and other items of weight including their lunch baskets, shoes, and outer clothing.   They did however keep the anchor and two other items, a stethoscope and a thermometer aboard.

     At the time they were reportedly “near the town of Mansfield, Massachusetts”.  As the balloon fell it was still being pushed along by strong winds, and it seemed certain to crash.  As it neared the ground, the anchor was dropped and it caught on a fence and immediately tore it apart.  The balloon continued on for another one-hundred feet before the anchor snagged in a maple tree which halted movement long enough for the occupants to quickly climb down the anchor rope and down the tree to safety. 

     It was reported that the damage to the balloon was such that it would never fly again.  The balloon had a capacity of 1,600 cubic feet.

     The Le Centaur was brought to the United States in 1906 by its owner, Count Henri de la Vaulx, and later acquired by the Aero Club of America.    

     Sources:

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

     The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.), “Two Men Fall A Mile”, May 30, 1907.  (This is not a new England newspaper and the exact date of this occurrence is not specified.)   

 

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 

A Novel Balloon Experiment – 1909

A Novel Balloon Experiment – 1909

     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, Vermont) on July 28, 1909.  The name of the balloon mentioned is the “Pittsfield”, named for Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

    Pittsfield Aeronaut Uses Novel Experiment To Descend

     “Conway, Mass.  July 28 – Parachuting his balloon, Pittsfield, at a height of over two miles by loosening the appendix cord and allowing the lower part of the balloon to rise into the netting, Dr. S. S. Stowell of Pittsfield, in his first trip as pilot yesterday made a drop to earth.  The experiment was probably the first of its nature ever tried in this country.

     The balloon ascended from Pittsfield at 10:25 o’clock.  The passengers were John T. Manning of that city, and Mrs. Blanche Hutz, a nurse in Bellevue Hospital, New York.  Over Ashland and Buckland the aeronauts struck a vortex, which once before has troubled balloonists, and were swept rapidly upward to over two miles.

     At this height, with but one bag of ballast left, Dr. Stowell conceived the idea of parachuting his balloon and allowing it to take its own course to earth rather then use the valve cord and allow gas to escape.  The appendix cord was loosened and the Pittsfield, resolving itself into a monster toadstool, started slowly earthward.

     The balloon settled over Shelburne Falls and Conway and came to rest without a jolt in a field in Conway at 1 o’clock.”      

     Source: The Bennington Evening Banner, “Pittsfield Aeronaut Uses Novel  Experiment To Descend”, July 28, 1909

Vermont Balloon Ascension – 1858

Vermont Balloon Ascension – 1858

     On July 5, 1858, John La Mountain made a balloon ascension from Rutland, Vermont, and reportedly reached an altitude of five miles – a remarkable feat for the day.   

     The following is an excerpt from The Middlebury Register, of Middlebury, Vermont, dated July 4, 1858. 

     “Mr. La Mountain in his account of his balloon ascension from Rutland on the 5th estimates that he reached an altitude of five miles.  He was able to count 53 villages.  The Earth appeared concave and there was no perceptible difference between mountains and valleys.  The wet sand in his (ballast) bags was frozen solid.  The rarified atmosphere and intense cold caused painful and alarming sensations.”

     Mr. La Mountain was quoted as saying:

     “At this woeful scene I still retained presence of mind enough to be aware of my condition. I immediately pulled the valve-rope to discharge gas to descend.  The Balloon having been continually ascending for about forty minutes, was at a height of at least five miles.  In the course of a few minutes the Balloon began gradually to descend, and my suffering began to be somewhat relieved. ”   

     The trip lasted one hour and twenty-two minutes during which the balloon traveled forty miles before it landed in the town of Windham. 

     Source:

     The Middlebury Register, (Middlebury, VT.), “News Of The Week”. July 14, 1858 

Jumping From A Balloon In The 19th Century

Jumping From A Balloon In 19th Century

 

     There was a time when balloon ascensions were popular attractions at county fairs and other venues all across the United States.  To draw larger crowds, some aeronauts took to making daring parachute jumps, or “drops” from their balloons, generally from altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 feet, although there were some who jumped from much greater heights.  The parachutes were usually of the aeronaut’s own design, made of linen or silk, and attached to the outside of the balloon, and not in a pack strapped to the back of the aeronaut.   

     When the aeronaut left the balloon, he (or she) would hold on to a ring at the bottom of the parachute, or sit upon a trapeze suspended beneath the parachute, and maintain a hold until landing.  However, there were some who would perform acrobatic feats with the trapeze during the descent.  As one might expect from such an arrangement, not all parachute “drops” ended well.

     The following illustrations from the late 1880s depict how such feats were accomplished.

Balloon ascending with parachute attached to the side.

Balloon ascending with parachute attached to the side.

     The top of the parachute was attached to the balloon in such a way that when the aeronaut dropped, his weight would cause it to release.  

 

Aeronaut Preparing to Jump With Parachute.

Aeronaut Preparing to Jump With Parachute.

     For obvious reasons, leaping from a balloon under these circumstances required one to be in top physical condition.   Upon leaving the balloon, the aeronaut would free fall for 100 feet or more before the parachute (hopefully) opened with a jerk.  Therefore it was necessary to maintain a strong grip lest he be yanked free by the jolt.  The grip then had to be maintained for at least two minutes or more while making the descent.  If landing on earth, he had to be agile enough to “tuck and roll”, and if on water, a good swimmer.

Safe Landing

Safe Landing

Performing Acrobatics

Performing Acrobatics

Sometimes Parachutes Would Fail

Sometimes Parachutes Would Fail

 

      Captain Thomas Baldwin, a well known aeronaut, balloonist, and airman of the late 1800s and early 1900s, described to a newspaper reporter what it feels like to make a parachute drop from a balloon.  The following excerpt is from the December 15, 1887 edition of the Democratic Northwest, a now defunct Ohio newspaper. 

    “The first hundred feet are the worst.  The parachute does not fill at once, and so it is like falling sheer through that much space.  And that is another reason why the drop has to be made a little carefully; otherwise I might get turned over, and though, of course, if I hold on ’twill come out all right, yet the wrench on my arms would be violent, and the thing would shake more.  It shakes quite enough, I assure you, although I have improved a little on it in that respect.  You can fancy what a fall of a hundred feet might be, though it is pretty hard to imagine it if you have never been through the thing.  The sensation is not altogether pleasant.  It is a giddy sinking through the air.  The condensation of the atmosphere under the parachute, which is shaped like an umbrella so as to catch the air more readily, brings me up suddenly.  It is almost like a jerk, and to people looking at me I seem to stop for a moment.  After that the decent is more gradual, though it is quite fast enough for ordinary purposes.  The rate of speed is about 1,200 feet a minute.  I have given the point of resistance which the parachute offers with a certain weight and when it is of a certain diameter a good deal of study.  The sensation is pleasant enough in summer.  Floating down through the air in that way is cool.  It is something like coming down a rapidly running elevator.  But your legs are free, and you feel your body with nothing around it.  The oscillations begin, however, and you are swayed from side to side like a pendulum.”          

Louis H. Capazza   

Louis Capazza's Parachute-Balloon, 1892

Louis Capazza’s Parachute-Balloon, 1892

       In 1892, Louis H. Capezza, (1862-1928), developed what he called a “parachute-balloon” in which the parachute served as the upper netting for the balloon until ready to deploy.  (See illustration below.) If the balloon suddenly burst, or developed a leak, the aeronaut would be saved by an automatic deployment of the parachute.  The balloon could also be manually opened via a rip cord operated by the pilot.

     Mr. Capazza also developed the concept of utilizing a parachute as an “air brake”.  Sometimes, for various reasons, a balloon would rise too fast, or continue to rise higher than the aeronaut intended.  Capazza reasoned that by placing a folded parachute beneath the balloon that could be unfurled in such a situation, the rapid ascension could be slowed or stopped.       

     Updated November 11, 2019

A 1906 illustration showing a performer being shot from a cannon suspended beneath a balloon.

     Sources:

     Democratic Northwest, (Napoleon, Ohio), “A Mighty Leap”, December 15, 1887

     Pittsburg Dispatch, (Pittsburg, PA.), “A Parachute Balloon”, November 27, 1892, page 22

     The Middleburgh Post, (Middleburgh, PA.), “To Stop A Balloon”, November 5, 1896

     Kansas City Journal, (Kansas City, Mo.) March 9, 1897, Page 8 

     The Cook County Herald, (Grand Marais, Minn.) “Leap From The Clouds”, November 30, 1901

     Wikipedia –  Louis H. Capazza

     The Interior Journal, (Stanford, KY.) July 6, 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

First U.S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

First U. S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

     On January 22, 1916, The Manufacturers Exhibition opened in New Haven, Connecticut.  One display that drew great interest was a model of a dirigible airship that had been constructed by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven; the first dirigible ever built for the United States Navy.    

     At the time of the exhibit, the airship was in a hangar at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire, undergoing some final preparations before it would sail to Pensacola, Florida, to under go trials and testing.

     The initial order for the dirigible was placed May 14, 1915.  It was reported at that time that the ship would be constructed in New York, assembled in New Haven, Connecticut, and shipped for trials to the Pensacola, Florida, Naval Aeronautic Station, all under the supervision and guidance of the Connecticut Aircraft Company.     

     The model displayed at the exhibition was designed to be towed by a battleship traveling 25 miles per hour against a 15 mph wind to be utilized by lookouts, and spotters for directing ship’s fire during battle conditions.   Traditional balloons had proved to be problematic in this roll due to their lack of stability under these conditions which often resulted in seasickness for the observers.

     The completed dirigible was described as being be 175 feet long, 50 feet tall, and 35 feet in diameter. It would carry a crew of eight, and cost $45,636. 

     The balloon was built with inner compartments that divided the front from the back, either of which could be pumped full with regular air to displace the hydrogen gas so as to make one end of the ship heavier or lighter to aid in ascending or descending.    

     Government specifications required that the dirigible be capable of rising at the rate of 8 feet per second. 

     Fabric for the balloon was manufactured at the United States Rubber Company.   

     On March 13, 1917, with the United States now involved in World War I, contracts totaling $649,250 were awarded to four manufacturers to produce 16 additional dirigibles for the U.S. Navy. 

     The awards were as follows:

     Three dirigibles to be built by the Curtis Aeroplane Company in Buffalo, N.Y., for $122,250.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven, CT., for $84,000.

     Nine dirigibles to be built by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, for $360,000.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the B. F. Goodrich company in Akron, Ohio, for $88,000.  

     During its tenure in business, the Connecticut Aircraft Company build 177 airships and balloons of various kinds.  In 1921 the company was acquired by a Delaware corporation known as the Aircraft-Construction Corporation, and continued to produce dirigible airships under that name. 

    Click here to view more articles pertaining to the Connecticut Aircraft Company. 

     Sources:

     The Sun, (NY) “First Dirigible For The U.S. Navy Will Be Constructed In New York”, May 16, 1915 

     Tulsa Daily World, (Okla.) “U. S. Navy’s New Air Ship Fleet”, August 8, 1915 

     The Sun, (N.Y.) “Model Of First Dirigible Built For U. S. Is Shown”, January 23, 1916   

     The Chickasha Daily Express, (Okla.) April 1, 1916

     The East Oregonian, (Ore.) “U.S. Contracts For Sixteen Dirigibles”, March 14, 1917, (Daily Evening Edition, page 5.)

     The Bridgeport Times, (CT.) “Connecticut Aircraft Plane Will Be Operated By New Delaware Corporation”, September 1, 1921 

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

 

Ernest Petin’s Connecticut Balloon Ascensions – 1852

Ernest Petin’s Connecticut Balloon Ascensions – 1852

 

    Early balloon with net Ernest Petin, (1812-1897), was a French aeronaut from Paris who experimented with various means of flight.  He came to America arriving in Boston in 1852, and furthered his research in Connecticut.   Like many aeronauts of his day, he hoped to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon.

     The following news item appeared in The New York Herald on February 12, 1852:

     “M. Petin, the celebrated inventor of the theory of the aerial navigation, sailed from Havre for Boston, in the American ship Emperor, on the 14th instant, taking with him to the Unites States his three balloons, engines and machinery.

     It will be remembered that M. Petin was struggling with the Minister of the Interior and the Perfect of Police, to obtain their permission to produce his invention before the public.  This demand was finally rejected by the authorities, and the French aeronaut soon arrived at the decision to emigrate to America.  Perhaps before the end of the year, he will return to Europe, in his machine, across the Atlantic sea.”      

     It’s unknown when Mr. Petin made his first balloon ascension in the United States, but an advertisement in the New York Herald stated that Petin would make a “Grand Balloon Ascension” in one of his three large balloons at the Union Course on Long Island, New York, on May 21, 1852.  

     On July 4, 1852, large crowds had gathered at Bridgeport, Connecticut, to watch Mr. Petin make an advertised balloon ascension.  Unfortunately, as preparations were being made strong winds pulled the balloon loose from its moorings and sent it crashing into the eaves of a nearby home where the fabric was torn apart.  Petin suffered minor injuries.  

     On July 23, 1852, Mr. Petin made a balloon ascension from Bridgeport, Connecticut, with two companions with great results.  The Hartford Weekly Times pointed out that this was not the same balloon Petin was injured in on July 4th, which was described as “inferior” to the balloon utilized on the 24th.  

     The article gave no details of the July 4th accident, but research has uncovered a small news items that may shed some light.  On June 26, 1852, about eight days before the accident, a Virginia newspaper, The Daily Dispatch, reported the following: “Mons. Petin, the inventor of a new aerial machine, has announced his intention to make a balloon ascension on horseback during the celebration of the 4th of July.”   

     A Pennsylvania newspaper, The Weekly Lancaster Gazette, carried the same basic statement, however added that the event was to take place in New York.    

     In August of 1852, Petin made another balloon ascension from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in a balloon measuring 25 feet long and 70 feet in diameter, with a boat attached underneath.  With him were Gustave Regnard of France, and a Mr. Wood of Bridgeport.    

     64 men reportedly held the ropes securing the balloon until the signal to release was given.  The craft quickly rose to an altitude of 10,000 feet and began drifting towards Long Island Sound.  While passing over the Sound it rose to 22,000 feet where the temperature was recorded at 9 degrees below zero. 

     The cold was intense, and one of the men, it was not stated who, was “benumbed”, and “fell into a profound sleep”.  With great difficulty, Petin managed to open the release valve and descend rapidly to 13,000 feet.

     The balloon landed without incident at Riverhead, New York, a village on Long Island, New York.      

     On September 6, 1852, Petin and three companions made another ascension from Bridgeport in what was said to be the largest balloon ever used in the United States.  It measured 100 feet tall and 72 feet around, and contained 3,500 cubic feet of gas. 

     It rose to an altitude of 23,500 feet as it was carried over Long Island Sound, and then Long Island itself before coming down in the Atlantic Ocean six miles from shore.  Petin and his companions were rescued by members of the Coast Guard Lifesaving Station in Bridgehampton, Long Island.     

     On October 14, 1852, Petin made yet another ascension from Bridgeport which ended with similar results as the previous trip made a month earlier.  This time the balloon hit the water two miles from shore off South Hampton, Long Island, and once again Petin and his companions were rescued by the Coast Guard.  

     The following year Mr. Petin began making ascensions in New Orleans, La.

     Sources:

     The New York Herald, (Morning Edition), (No Headline) February 12, 1852

     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.) “Balloon Ascension On Horseback”, June 26, 1852

     The Weekly Lancaster Gazette, July 1, 1852

     New Orleans Daily Crescent, “A Collapse” , July 15, 1852 

     Hartford Weekly Times, (CT.)  “Balloon Ascension”, July 24, 1852

     Jeffersonian Republican, (Stroudsburg, Pa.), “Great Balloon Ascension”, August 19, 1852

     A History of the Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Part II, by Samuel Orcutt, Fairfield Co. Historical Society, Bridgeport, Ct. C. 1886

     Weekly National Intelligencer, (Washington, DC), “Narrow Escape Of Ballonists”, October 16, 1852 

William Riley’s Life Boat Balloons – 1896

William Riley’s Life Boat Balloons – 1896

     In 1896, Connecticut inventor William Willshire Riley, (1815-1897), demonstrated a novel idea for saving the lives of those who found themselves aboard sinking ships – life boats equipped with balloons.  The balloons gave the boats better buoyancy, could act as a sail to push the boat along, and also make the boat easier to see from a distance, thus offering a better chance at rescue.

     Mr. Riley received the patent for his idea on February 3, 1891. 

     In the late summer and early autumn of 1896, Riley demonstrated that his idea worked as he conducted tests on the Connecticut River near Middletown.  Even when the boat was completely filled with water, passengers, and crew, the balloon provided enough lift to keep it afloat. 

     The Riley life boat was reported to be 16 feet long, equipped with cylinders containing compressed gas to inflate the balloon, which was connected to the top of an adjustable hollow mast.  The gas could also be pumped from the balloon and back into the cylinders if necessary.  It was also demonstrated that the gas could be ignited and used as a beacon to attract rescue at night. 

     In the 19th century, many sailing ships were wrecked within sight of shore, and it was up to the U.S. Life Saving Service to rescue the helpless crews.  Rescue operations were often conducted in stormy weather and rough seas.  One method used by the Life Saving Service was to fire a small cannon which launched a rope to the stricken vessel.  Unfortunately this wasn’t always successful if the wind was blowing shoreward.  Mr. Riley showed that his boat could be launched from a sinking vessel and carry a rope to shore with it. 

     It was thought that Mr. Riley’s invention would be in common use within a short time. 

     Mr. Riley passed away on April 8, 1897, and is buried with is wife at Old Center Cemetery in Cromwell, Connecticut.  To see a photograph of his grave and learn more, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #13743474.         

     Sources:

     Iron County Register, (Mo.) “Balloons To Save Life”, November 5, 1896 – Originally published in the New York Herald.    

     www.findagrave.com

 

He Nearly Drowned In A Balloon -1906

He Nearly Drowned In A Balloon – 1906 

19th Century Illustration Of An Early Aeronaut

19th Century Illustration

Of An Early Aeronaut

     Being blown out to sea was one the biggest fears of early aeronauts who took to the sky in balloons, for weight considerations didn’t allow for life rafts, and chances of survival were slim.  Such an experience happened to “Professor” James K. Allen, a famous Rhode Island balloonist, in 1906. 

     Allen took off in his balloon from Providence on July 4, 1906, as part of a Fourth of July celebration.  The weather was threatening, but Allen didn’t want to disappoint the huge crowds who had come to witness the ascension.

     Allen lifted off shortly after noon time, but a few minutes into the flight he realized there was a problem with the craft’s drag rope and anchor, so he set down to fix the problem.  He came down on the Bowen estate just outside Providence.  (The present-day location of the former Bowen estate is unknown.)  The balloon was 52 feet high and 28 feet wide, decorated with numerous flags for Independence Day, which attracted a lot of attention as it came in to land, and Allen had no trouble finding volunteers to hold the balloon down while he made the necessary repairs.  Ten minutes later he was finished, and once again took off. 

     Wind currents carried him north towards Attleboro, Massachusetts, where he lost considerable altitude, but after dropping ballast bags full of sand to attain more altitude, the balloon shot upwards to a height of 10,000 feet. 

     “I tell you it was a fine sight, ” he later told reporters, “those clouds rolled up in banks, like mountains of snow way down underneath the balloon.  Sometimes the clouds look dark when you get over them, but these clouds were light and white, as they look after a storm.”    

Ad from August, 1870

     When asked how fast he was going at this point, Allen replied, “Ah, I was fooled up there.  It was blowing something fierce, and I couldn’t tell how fast I was going.  I guess I was going along over the clouds for a couple of hours when I saw the water.  Then I let out some gas, and came down a little to get my bearings, for I didn’t want to go out to sea.  I kept going out, however, and apparently to the southeast, but it was stormy and raining, and I couldn’t very well tell just where I was.”

     Just as it was getting dark Allen realized he was passing over Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the very tip of Cape Cod, and being pushed out to sea.  In the fading light he let out all five-hundred feet of his drag rope as well as the anchor which caught in the water below and pulled him down to about one hundred feet above the waves.  The drag rope also served to reduce his speed, but high winds were still pushing him away from shore.  With a cloudy sky and no moon, Allen found himself traveling along in utter darkness.  

     Shortly after midnight the gondola struck the water drenching its occupant.  “The minute we touched the water, “Allen related, “I grabbed the ropes overhead and I was none too quick for the basket was almost submerged.  I threw out a few bagfulls of sand and went up again, about a hundred feet, I guess, but about an hour later I struck the water again and got another good soaking.”     

     Each time the gondola went into the water Allen was forced to drop more ballast to allow the balloon to rise up again.  By dawn he had received three dunkings. 

     As the sky grew lighter, he saw a steamship approaching from the opposite direction, but despite his efforts to signal for help the ship kept going.  Somehow the bridge crew and the lookout had missed the huge colorful balloon bobbing just above the surface.   “I shouted,” said Allen, “but I guess she didn’t see me, for she paid no attention to me and kept right on her course.”

     About an hour later the balloon was seen by the crew of a tugboat that was pulling several barges.   Allen signaled for help, and the tug captain cut the barges loose and gave chase, but the wind picked up and blew the balloon faster than the tug could go, and the boat’s captain was forced to abandon his rescue efforts.

     “I was tearing along at a pretty good pace in spite of the drag.” (rope) Allen related.

     Later he came upon a fishing schooner with two long boats in the water, and the crew of one of the boats managed to grab ahold of the drag rope behind the balloon and secure it to the boat.  The boat came along side to help, yet the wind was still blowing hard enough that the balloon began pulling the boats! 

     “When I saw they held on,” Allen recalled, “I began letting out the gas, and I got down lower and lower, until finally I landed safely in one of the dories as pretty as you could wish, and stepped out.  It was pretty calm by this time, and we didn’t have much trouble with the balloon.  The schooner came up and Captain John V. Silva invited me on board.”    

     The schooner was the Francis V. Silva out of Provincetown, Massachusetts.  The location of Mr. Allen’s rescue was ten miles off Chatham, Mass.  

      When asked by the press how many times he had flown in a balloon, Allen replied, “About 400 times; 185 times I’ve cut loose from earth; the other times I just ascended in the balloon while it was tied by a rope 400 to 500 feet.  It’s the best fun in the world.”

     As a point of fact, it had originally been planned for Mr. Allen’s wife to accompany him on this flight.  After his harrowing adventure, he was happy she stayed behind.  

     This was not Mr. Allen’s only brush with death in his flying career.  See “Providence, R. I. – July 16, 1892”, under “Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents” on this website. 

     Source:

     (Woonsocket R.I. )Evening Reporter, “Balloonist Is Rescued”, July 7, 1906.     

     Update, February 7, 2017

     Thirty-five years before the above mentioned incident, Mr. Allen had another adventure in one of the family balloons.  

     On July 4, 1871, James K. Allen made an ascension at Troy, New York, in his balloon the “Empyrean“.  The balloon held 15,000 cubic feet of gas, and was reportedly “gaily trimmed with bunting and natural flowers.”   

     The balloon rose to over 12,000 feet and drifted over the upstate New York countryside, rising and falling at different times.  After an uneventful flight, the Empyrean came down in a large tract of wilderness, and Allen was forced to climb down the tree in which it had become entangled.  As he was doing so a branch broke under his weight and he landed hard on the ground below, but wasn’t seriously injured.  He lacked a compass, and using his own best judgement, hiked his way to help.  he eventually came to a farm in Putnam, New York, about 100 miles from Troy.  

     The Allen’s of Providence, Rhode Island, have been called the first family of Rhode Island aviation.  Besides the Empyrean, they reportedly owned two other balloons, “Monarch of the Air“, and the “Jupiter Olympus”  

     Source:

     Rutland Weekly Herald, (VT.), “A Perilous Balloon Ascension And Narrow Escape Of The Aeronaut”, July 20, 1871 

Updated February 26, 2017

     The following article appeared in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian, (St. Johnsbury, VT.) on October 11, 1895

AN AERONAUT’S ESCAPE 

     The Boston Journal last week had a sensational account of the marvelous escape from death of the well known aeronaut, James K. Allen, of Providence, R.I.  Mr. Allen has many friends in St. Johnsbury, and has made successful ascensions from our fairground.  His adventure came near costing his life.  He became suffocated by escaping gas, and would have fallen from the balloon had not his two companions caught him and held him by his heels until the balloon drifted to earth again.  As the companions knew nothing about the management of balloons, it took the air ship 45 minutes to reach the ground, and when terra firma was reached the professor was crazy.  His two companions declared that nothing would hire them to go up in a balloon again.

     Source: St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “An Aeronaut’s Escape”, October 11, 1895    

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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