Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ballooning in France

The two Montgolfier brothers were born into a family of paper manufacturers, Observing how laundry suspended over a fire billowed up with the waves of heat, Joseph experimented with paper bags, until he and his brother Etienne eventually built the huge hot air-filled globes that could carry people long distances. Their first public demonstration was in June of 1783, with a balloon that traveled 2 km in 10 minutes, at an altitude of about 2,000 metres. This encouraged them to build a larger and beautiful balloon for a demonstration for the king and queen. With the assistance of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, a wallpaper manufacturer, a gorgeous balloon was constructed. Aboard were a sheep called Montauciel ("Climb-to-the-sky"), a duck and a rooster.  The royal couple were totally impressed. 

The Montgolfier brothers were aware of the far-reaching implications of their invention, envisioning long-distance transportation and military possibilities. Other inventors soon jumped on the idea and balloon travel was the wave of the future. Here's a postcard from the late 1800s depicting "Airships in the Year 2000" while touting chocolate. 

A favorite poem in my family was "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American pilot serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. He was killed in a training exercise in England in 1941, at the age of 19. His poem, written on the back of a letter to his parents, was published and has since become an inspirational standard.

Is that Cousin Geneviève and Louis?

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