Balloon history – Benoit-Louis Prevost, 1783

FLIGHT OF THE WORLD’S FIRST HYDROGEN BALLOON “Vue prise du pont Royal” [view from the pont Royal bridge]. “Seconds voyageurs…

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Vue prise du pont Royal” [view from the pont Royal bridge]. “Seconds voyageurs aëriens, ou experience de MM. Charles et Robert faite a Paris dans le parterre du jardin royal des Thuilleries le 1 decembre 1783“, [Second air travellers, the experience of the gentlemen Charles and Robert made in Paris from the Jardin des Tuileries on December 1, 1783] etching made by Benoît-Louis Prévost in or after 1783. Coloured by a later hand. Size :

On December 1, 1783, Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen filled balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

The envelope was fitted with a hydrogen release valve and was covered with a net from which the basket was suspended. Sand ballast was used to control altitude. They ascended to a height of about 550 m and landed at sunset in Nesles-la-Vallée after a 2-hour 5 minute flight covering 36 km. The chasers on horseback, who were led by the Duc de Chartres, held down the craft while both Charles and Nicolas-Louis alighted.

As many as 400,000 people – literally half of the population of Paris – gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

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