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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 12/08/2004 10:38:17 EDT
Subject: To Clarify first Pre-War Balloon Flight in History

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The following is an excerpt of what Tom D. Crouch, the Senior Curator of Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution in Washington has written on the first flight in America:

"June 24, 1784 is an important, if entirely forgotten, day in American history. The announcement that Peter Carnes, a lawyer and tavern keeper from Bladensburg, Maryland, would fly a balloon in Howard Park [near present site of Baltimore's Washington Monument] had attracted “a numer-ous and respectable Congress of People” to Baltimore that day. The entire city had gone “Balloon Mad,” according to one disgruntled clerk. “Every store but our own and a few others were shut.” Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier had flown the world’s first small bal-loon from the town square of Annonay, in the south of France, on June 4, 1783, barely one year before. The first human beings had flown from Paris only seven months before, on November 21, 1783. Carnes, who had never seen a balloon and who had little more than vague descriptions to go on, had completed work on his hot air craft and sent it aloft on its first tethered flight from Bladensburg [Maryland] on June 14, 1784. That flight, and all of those made early on June 24, were tethered ascents with no one on board. Carnes, who weighed in at 234 pounds, was apparently too heavy for the small balloon to lift.

As Carnes was preparing to send the balloon aloft for the last time that afternoon, however, a 13-year-old lad named Edward Warren stepped out of the crowd and volunteered to ascend in the “splendid chariot” dangling beneath the multicolored silk envelope. Baltimore news-papers assured their readers that young Edward behaved “with the steady fortitude of an old voy-ager.” He “soared aloof” to the cheers of the crowd, “which he politely acknowledged by a sig-nificant wave of his hat.” When Warren returned to the “terrene element” a few minutes later, a collection was taken up so that he might have a reward with a “solid rather than an airy founda-tion, and of a species which is ever acceptable to the residents of this lower world.” An American had flown from American soil for the first time, and the world would never be quite the same. The winds of change were sweep-ing across America and Europe. The war that had begun with a few scattered shots fired on the Lexington green had ended just a year before with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. It seemed only fitting that a new nation which promised unprecedented freedom and opportunity should be born at the very moment when human beings took their first faltering steps toward achieving the freedom of the skies.

Only a few months before Edward Warren ascended from Baltimore, Benjamin Franklin had over-heard a Parisian suggest that the balloon was athing of little practical value. Franklin had turned to the fellow and asked: “Of what use is a newborn Babe?” If human beings could fly, after all, was there anything they could not achieve? Peter Carnes and Edward Warren launched America on its love affair with flight.

Throughout the 19th century, Americans would thrill at the sight of a colorful balloon, and its even more colorful pilot, rising above the local Fourth of July celebration or county fair [and] listen to tales of the observation balloonists employed by both Blue and Gray during the Civil War..."

From what I have been able to gather, Jean-Pierre Blanchard can be credited with having conducted the first free-flight gas balloon air voyage embarking from Philadelphia, Penna. nine years following Edward Warren's first manned ascension in America.

I think if we look closely enough - we'll see that two firsts had occurred, albeit with a slight tweeking of the terms - tethered vs. free-flight, gas vs. hot-air.


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