Providence, R.I. – July 16, 1892

Providence, Rhode Island – July 16, 1892 


Old Postcard View Of The Providence Armory  And Dexter Training Field - Providence, R.I.

Old Postcard View Of The Providence Armory
And Dexter Training Field – Providence, R.I.

     On July 16, 1892, four men took off in a balloon from the Dexter training field located next to the Providence Armory.  The balloon was named Royal Sovereign, and belonged to the famous aeronaut “Professor” James K. Allen who was at the controls.  Besides Allen, the balloon also carried his assistant Charles E. Albee, an unidentified reporter from the Providence Journal, and a fourth man, Edward Barnett.    

     Almost as soon as the Royal Sovereign lifted from the ground, it was caught by a strong wind that carried it towards Dexter Street which was lined with trees and houses.  Allen quickly tried to release several bags of ballast to gain altitude, but he couldn’t do it fast enough, and the balloon scrapped the tree tops and crashed into several chimneys as it continued in a southeast direction over Cranston Street and towards Lester Street.  As the craft flew across Lester Street it snagged several telephone and electrical wires tearing them free from the poles.  When it did so, Allen was pitched from the controls and tossed to the street where he suffered a broken leg, a fractured knee, and multiple bumps and bruises.  What may have saved is life is the fact that held fast to the emergency release rope which tore open the side of the balloon as he fell possibly slowing his descent. 

     As the gas escaped, the balloon fell rapidly and crashed into a barn about fifty yards from where Allen lay in the street.  The impact threw the other three men from the gondola, but their injuries were not life threatening.  

     Allen was taken to his home in an ambulance where doctors set his leg. 


     New York Times, “Another Balloon Accident” July 17, 1892

A Fuel Tank Falls On Providence – 1948


Providence, Rhode Island

August 26, 1948

      Motorcycle Patrolman A.F. Baribault of the Providence Police Traffic Division was cruising along Chestnut Street near the city’s Jewelry District when he saw what appeared to be a bomb fall from an airplane.  

    Lawrence Tabor, a worker at Speidel Jewelry on Bassett Street also saw it drop, and could plainly see liquid spewing from the cigar shaped object as in tumbled earthward.   It struck the ground only 100 feet away at the intersection of Bassett and Ship Streets.  An explosive concussion shook the areas as flaming gasoline showering the street.  

     Emergency lines were quickly jammed with reports of an explosion.  Some said a manhole had blown up, others claimed it was a bomb.     

     One of the first to arrive was Officer Baribault who quickly determined the object was not a bomb, but an auxiliary fuel tank used by military fighter planes since World War II.  The aluminum tank had ruptured and split apart with one section lying in the roadway and another landing in a nearby lot.     

    Droppable fuel tanks for fighters had been developed during World War II to give the fighter aircraft greater range. The tank that dropped on Providence came from a U. S. Navy F6F Hellcat, a World War II aircraft carrier fighter produced by Grumman between 1942 and 1945. 

    Navy officials from the Quonset Naval Air Station responded to Providence and recovered the damaged fuel tank.  Fortunately nobody had been injured and property damage had been minor. The Navy released a statement that the pilot had accidentally dropped the tank while on a routine flight and that a formal inquiry into the incident would begin right away.

     A Navy spokesman told the Providence Journal; “This external or droppable tank is made to drop at the discretion of the pilot to get rid of the weight and friction.” 

     This particular tank had been loaded with 150 to 300 gallons of fuel when it was dropped.       

Source: Providence Journal, “Gas Tank Drops From Navy Plane, Misses Cars At City Intersection”, August 27, 1948, pg. 1 

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