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Ascent of the Vauxhall Balloon and Mr. Cocking's Parachute

 Digital Record
Identifier: VBI_000396


  • c. 1837

Conditions Governing Use

Access to the Theodore Newton Vail Collection of Aeronautical Images, Broadsides and Clippings is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to the Institute Archives. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Cocking (1777-1837) was a watercolor painter and amateur scientist who was inspired to design and launch a parachute after witnessing André-Jaques Garnerin’s 1802 parachute descent. His design, an inverted cone-shaped parachute, was heavily influenced by Sir George Cayley’s article On Aerial Navigation (1810). On July 24 1837, Cocking and his invention were attached to the Royal Nassau (or Vauxhall) balloon, piloted by Charles Green with Edward Spencer, as it made an ascent from the Royal Gardens at Vauxhall in London. When the balloon reached a height of 5000 feet, Cocking called out "Goodnight Spencer, goodnight Green" and the parachute was released. However, it failed to operate as planned, crumpling rapidly and crashing within three minutes. Cocking died very shortly after his fall. Following the fatal accident, several aeronauts, including Charles Green, made ascents to benefit Cocking's widow.

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Originals

Box 19

Physical Description



4 items; 23.8 x 7.6 cm (Nassau clipping) 13.2 x 7.6 cm (Cocking clipping) 12.7 x 16.7 cm (in air illustration) 19.9 x 12.6 cm (page fabrics attached to)

General Note

Two images of the Nassau Balloon with Robert Cocking’s parachute attached, one image of Cocking in the basket of the balloon, and two pieces of fabric attached to a page, presumably pieces of Cocking's parachute and/or balloon, collected as keepsakes.

Sources used for Biographical/Historical note

Hodgson, J.E., History of Aeronautics in Great Britain (Oxford University Press, London, 1924), 331-334.

Rolt, L.T.C., The Aeronauts (Walker and Company, New York, 1966), 127-130.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
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