Long before the first balloon flight took place, men had dreamed of flying in the air. In the 18th century, the Montgolfier brothers finally made it happen. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, paper manufacturers at the time, discovered that with heated air in a paper or fabric bag, the bag rose. In 1782, they then began experimenting with flights that were lighter than air. After several successful attempts, they were invited to carry a demonstration in front of the king of France, Louis XVI.
The Montgolfier brothers carried out a few tests before demonstrating to the royal family, with the help of their friend Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, who was a wallpaper manufacturer and had designed two interweaving L’s on the balloon. The balloon was made of taffeta canvas, paper glued onto the sides, and coated with alum for fireproofing. It was also adorned with zodiac signs and suns all in gold, representing the French monarch. They eventually named it “Aérostat Réveillon”.
Instead of flying the prisoners as King Louis suggested, the Montgolfiers chose three animals – a sheep, duck, and cockerel – as the first passengers. The idea was backed by scientific proofs. A sheep was considered to have similar physiology to human; the duck was believed not to be harmed by being lifted aloft; the cockerel was used as a further control since it did not fly at high altitude.
19 September 1783 marked the first hot air balloon flight with living beings in human history. The crowd flooded the Royal Palace in Versailles, with the royal family’s presence, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Along with a cannon blast, the balloon carrying three animals was lifted off the ground and flew 600 meters into the air. After traveling 3.5km, the balloon suffered a rip in the fabric and had to descend slowly. The flight lasted 8 minutes and obtained about 1500 feet altitude.
Not only did the craft landed safely, but the animals were also found alive. They were given the title as “heroes of the air” and earned a place in the Menagerie in Versailles. The event marked a new page in the history of mankind and has been inspiring many.
Discover our new art print – Versailles Balloons – below.
Versailles Balloons Art Print50,00 € – 85,00 €