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Balloons and Parachutes, Saturday, July 24, 1841

 Digital Record
Identifier: VBI_000477


  • Creation: 1841 July 24

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

Aeronaut André Jacques Garnerin (1769-1823) made the world's first successful parachute jump from a balloon on October 22, 1797 over the park of Moncau in Paris. He had formulated his plans for the parachute and descent while a prisoner of war in Hungary during the French revolution. In 1798, Garnerin's wife, Jeanne-Genevieve Garnerin (1779-1847), became the first woman to make a parachute jump, and his niece Elisa Garnerin (1800-1845) was also an aeronaut. Garnerin made approximately 200 successful jumps in his career before dying on August 18, 1823 after a beam struck him on the head while he was preparing balloon equipment.

Charles Green (1785-1870) was one of the 19th century’s most celebrated aeronauts. He made over 500 ascents in his career, primarily in his native England. These ascents included the first voyage in a balloon filled with coal-gas. Most of Green’s ascents were made in his Royal Vauxhall Balloon, built in August, 1836. Among these was an 18 hour, 480 mile journey undertaken in November 1836 from Vauxhall Gardens in London to Nassau in Germany. Green was accompanied on this record-breaking trip by Robert Hollond and Monck Mason. Thereafter, the Vauxhall Balloon was known as the “Nassau” or “Royal Nassau” balloon. The details of this trip are written in Monck Mason’s "Aeronautica" (1838). In 1840 Green proposed a cross-Atlantic flight which generated much publicity but never took place. Charles Green was also involved in the tragic death of amateur parachutist Robert Cocking, whose fatal descent was made from the Nassau balloon piloted by Green. He retired from ballooning in 1852.

Italian aeronaut Vincent Lunardi pioneered a method of filling a balloon with hydrogen meant as an improvement over the Montgolfier’s hot air method. Using a balloon filled with “inflammable air”, he made the first balloon flight over England in a craft equipped with oars and wings to aid in steering. Lunardi was to have made this flight with George Biggin, but at the last moment it was decided that the weight of two men might be too much, so Lunardi made the ascent along with a dog, a cat and a pigeon. The pigeon escaped almost immediately. One oar which was dropped by Lunardi as the balloon ascended, was mistaken for the body of the aeronaut by a woman viewer who later died from the stress. The balloon landed finally at Standon, near Ware in Hertfordshire. The cat, who seemed too cold to continue the journey, had been let off the balloon during a first brief landing in North Mimms.

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Originals

Box 22

Physical Description



40.6 x 33.8 cm (at longest/widest)

General Note

Article about André Jacques Garnerin’s first ascent and descent in a parachute, with his own account of it. Also contains a note about Vincent Lunardi’s first ascent in England, and a second article about Charles Green’s ascent from Vauxhall. Above the articles are illustrations of Lunardi’s two balloons and Garnerin’s balloon and parachute.

Sources used for Biographical/Historical note

Crouch, Tom D., Lighter Than Air, An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships, (Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore), 44.

Rolt, L.T.C., The Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning 1783-1903 (1966), 105-109.

Hodgson, J.E., History of Aeronautics in Great Britain (Oxford University Press, London, 1924), 218-223.

Repository Details

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

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