Little Bits of History

Up, Up and Away

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 4, 2015
Montgolfier Brothers' Balloon

Montgolfier Brothers’ Balloon

June 4, 1784: Élisabeth Thible becomes the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. Also aboard La Gustave was Mr. Fleurant. Thible was a native of Lyon, France and when Sweden’s King Gustav III came to visit, the two went for a demonstration balloon ride. Fleurant was suppose to go aloft with Count Jean-Baptiste de Laurencin, but the Count gave up his place to Thible. De Laurencin had already had a hot air balloon ride on January 19, 1784 when he rode with Joseph Montgolfier with five other passengers. That flight ended in a crash but no one was seriously hurt. This may have led to his decision to give up his place in this day’s demonstration flight. Not much is known of Thible other than she was described as the abandoned spouse of Lyon merchant and made this flight.

The balloon rose with Thible aboard and dressed as the Roman goddess Minerva. She and Fleurant sang two duets from Monsigny’s La Belle Arsène, a popular opera of the time. The balloon rose to an estimated height of nearly a mile. One assumes the singing took place while the balloon was closer to the ground. The flight lasted 45 minutes and the couple landed about 2.5 miles away. The bumpy landing was the cause of Thible’s sprained ankle. Fleurent credited Thible with the success of the flight because she fed the fire box during the flight and exhibited great courage.

Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human-carrying method of flight. Etienne and Joseph Montgolfier created a hot air balloon which they demonstrated on June 5, 1783. It was the balloon alone without a basket and filled with hot air. It was cut loose and traveled slightly more than a mile before landing. News spread quickly and on November 21, 1783 Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes became the first humans to fly in an untethered balloon which had been created by the Montgolfier brothers. Hot air balloons have a bag called an enveloped which contains the hot air and beneath is a gondola or wicker basket. If there is a steering mechanism attached, the craft is a thermal airship.

The earliest use of hot air balloons was not for flight but as airborne lanterns used for military signaling by the Shu Han kingdom in ancient China (220-280 AD). These were called Kongming lanterns. There had been some speculation that hot air balloons may have been used for designing the Nazca ground figures, but this remains speculative. Today, ballooning is a sporting or recreational event. Vijaypat Singhania set a world record for altitude reached with 68,986 feet or 13 miles up. The longest flight today was from Japan to Northern Canada when Per Landstrand and Richard Branson flew 4,767.1 miles in the Virgin Pacific Flyer.

The balloon seems to stand still in the air while the earth flies past underneath. – Alberto Santos Dumont

My definition [of a philosopher] is of a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down. – Louisa May Alcott

If there was the opportunity to climb a mountain, or to go ballooning, or some adventurous activity, I would always be keen to do it. I loved the countryside. – Roger Bannister

The jet stream is a very strong force and pushing a balloon into it is like pushing up against a brick wall, but once we got into it, we found that, remarkably, the balloon went whatever speed the wind went. – Richard Branson

Also on this day: Consumerism’s Helper – In 1937, Sylvan Goldman got creative and boosted sales.
Congratulations – In 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded.
Bravery – In 1989, Tank Man faces a row of Chinese tanks.
Rogers Family – In 1989, three bodies were found floating in Tampa Bay.
Vaseline – In 1872, Vaseline was patented.


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