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9 January 2009

On this day in history: Balloonmania reached the United States, 1793

In the years following the Montgolfier brothers' first successful balloon flights in 1783 'balloonmania' swept across Europe. One of the greatest promoters of this new form of transport was the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard. He made his first successful flight at Paris using a hydrogen filled balloon in March 1784. He then travelled around Europe demonstrating his balloons becoming the first to fly a balloon across the English Channel (accompanied by Dr. John Jeffries), as well the first to fly such devices in Belgium, Germany, Holland and Poland.

Blanchard then crossed the Atlantic and on 9th January 1793 he added to his records by making the first balloon flight in the United States. President George Washington observed Blanchard take to the air at around 10:10am from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania after having given the Frenchman a letter under his seal requiring that no US citizen hinder him. Also watching the launch were the future presidents John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. At 10:56am, Blanchard landed at Deptford in Gloucester County, New Jersey where he soon attracted a crowd of bemused onlookers who were not only impressed by the manner of his arrival but also by the President's letter.

Blanchard's Journal of my forty-fifth ascension, being the first performed in America, on the ninth of January, 1793 is available in a number of file formats on the Internet Archive site.

3 comments:

PurpleGreenPops.com said...

Just the other day, my wife and I were talking about whether we would ever ride in hot air balloon.

After we thought of all the pros and cons, we decided, "No" was definitely the answer.

Paul Baines said...

I wanted to book a short balloon ride for myself and my gf last Christmas - I looked around at different companies in our area and to hire one without sharing with about 12 other people all spilling champagne over each other would have cost as much as a ballooning holiday in Africa for 4 days - what a rip!

Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comments. Judging from them it seems that the 18thC balloon craze is now well and trully over.