The Montgolfier brothers, who owned a paper factory in France in the 1700s, became intrigued by a piece of paper that flew up a chimney under a roaring hearth one day. They began to experiment by filling a small silk bag with smoke and were thrilled as it floated to the ceiling. The Montgolfier brothers wanted to make the first manned flight in a hot air balloon. However, they had promised their father that they would never risk their lives by going up in a balloon. Although there were volunteers for the first manned flight, the balloon flight launched with only a duck, a rooster, and a sheep in the basket. This flight took place at Versailles on September 18, 1783 and was witnessed by King Louis XVI. The animals were unharmed during the eight minute flight.
Did you know?
Benjamin Franklin witnessed the first balloon flight in Paris in 1783 and was a signatory of the official report that went to the Academy of Sciences. The first balloon flight in North America was piloted by Jean-Pierre Blanchard on January 9, 1793.
The flight launched from Philadelphia, PA and landed in Deptford, NJ.
Balloons and Bubbly: Champagne?
Why is champagne closely associated with ballooning? The tradition dates back to the first balloon flight in France. Early balloons were attacked by the landowners with stones, clubs, and pitchforks as they landed, since the landowners believed the balloons to be "fire-breathing monsters." These early French aeronauts found that they could distract the landowners by offering them a glass of champagne. While it is unlikely that today's landowners think of balloons as "fire-breathing monsters," pilots still offer a bottle of champagne to thank them for the use of their land. A champagne toast also takes place after each balloon flight, along with the recitation of the Balloonists' Prayer.
November 21, 1783:
The first recorded manned flight in a hot air balloon took place in Paris. Built from paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, this balloon was piloted on a 22 minute flight by two noblemen from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. From the center of Paris they ascended 500 feet above the roof tops before eventually landing miles away in the vineyards.
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