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The Penny Illustrated Paper, Sept. 20, 1873

 Digital Record
Identifier: VBI_000547


  • Creation: 1873 September 20

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

John Wise was one of the most active American aeronauts and a pioneer in the field of ballooning. One of his innovations was the use of a dragline to stabilize altitude and aid in controlled deflation during descents. Wise was also the first to observe the jet stream. On 17 August 1859 he made the first flight of local airmail in the U.S. from Lafayette, Indiana to Crawfordsville, Indiana. Wise made over 400 flights during his lifetime. He disappeared during a balloon voyage over Lake Michigan on 28 September 28, 1879.

In 1863, Félix Nadar’s “Le Géant” was the largest gas balloon ever constructed, holding 200,000 cubic feet of gas. The passenger car below the balloon was a small, two-story wicker house 8 feet high by 13 feet long, containing a small photography room, a parlor, and a restroom. Underneath it was placed a smaller balloon, called a compensator, the object of which was to prevent loss of gas during the voyage. It was built largely by the Godard brothers, Louis and Jules. There were nine passengers on its first journey made from the Champ de Mars on October 4, 1853, including Madame Nadar. After 17 hours and 400 miles, Nadar attempted to descend at Hanover, Germany. The large balloon and its car were dragged along the ground by a strong wind for seven or eight miles, knocking down trees and chimneys, before finally coming to a stop. All passengers were injured, some badly, but none fatally. Its second voyage launched on October 18 of the same year, and was also perilous. Jules Godard, who was a passenger on this trip, is credited with saving the lives of Nadar and the other passengers.

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Originals

Box 24

Physical Description



4 pages; 24.5 x 34.5 cm

General Note

Two articles from the Penny Illustrated Paper: one about Professor Wise’s proposed trip across the Atlantic in a balloon from New York to Europe, and one detailing some of the major events in ballooning history with emphasis on Félix Nadar's ascensions in "Le Géant" balloon. Illustrations show "Le Géant” during initial inflation at the Champ de Mars in Paris, and during its tumultuous descent.

General Note

The Penny Illustrated Paper

Sources used for Biographical/Historical note

Bacon, John Mackenzie. The dominion of the air: the story of aerial navigation. (Cassell and company, limited, London, New York [etc.], 1902.), 101-103.

Crouch, Tom D., The Eagle Aloft, Two Centuries of the Balloon in America (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1983), 183-190, 430.

Rolt, L.T.C., The Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning 1783-1903 (Walker, New York, 1966), 146-147.

Turnor, Hatton, Astra Castra; experiments and adventures in the atmosphere (London, Chapman and Hall, 1865), 266.

Repository Details

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
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