Chelsea, MA – June 17, 1839

Chelsea, Massachusetts – June 17, 1839 

     Louis Anselm Lauriat, (c. 1786 – c. 1857), was a Boston aeronaut who reportedly made 48 balloon ascensions during his lifetime.  He was born in Marseilles, France, and came to America in the early 1800s, where he settled in Boston and established a business at the corner of Washington and Springfield Streets in Boston producing gold leaf.  He also developed an interest in science and balloons, and began making ascensions of his own. 

     The following article appeared in the Vermont Phoenix on June 28, 1839, referring to an ill fated balloon ascension made by Lauriat on June 17, 1839.   The article had first appeared in the Boston Transcript.

     THE BALLOON-PERILOUS VOYAGE

     The wind was West North West, with a strong breeze, when Mr. Lauriat ascended in his balloon from Chelsea yesterday afternoon; and as he rose from the garden of the Chelsea House, where the balloon was inflated, he was driven by the force of the wind against branches of a tree, and five of the cords by which the cars were attached to the aerostat were severed, and Mr. Lauriat was in imminent danger of being thrown out, – the balloon, however, was wafted on, at a low elevation, towards Shirley Point, where Mr. L endeavored to effect a landing, and letting off a portion of the gas, descended to the ground.  The balloon was dragged some distance and came in contact with another tree, by which two more cords were severed, and left it retained only by a part of the netting.

     There was no assistance at hand, and the balloon, after being disengaged from the tree, was dragged, in despite of all Mr. L’s efforts to stop its progress, into the water, and continued skipping over the surface, sometimes completely immersing the aeronaut in the water, and again elevating him a hundred (feet) in the air.  There were several vessels in the bay which endeavored to assist him, but were unable to reach him.  The balloon was driven some eight or ten miles from land, and Mr. L became faint, discouraged at the moment by anticipation of a watery grave.  In this perilous condition he continued until Capt. Paine of the schooner Fame, which was coming up the bay, discovered his situation, and launched a boat, which was rowed to his assistance, and happily, the progress of the balloon was intercepted, and the aeronaut rescued, just as the balloon rolled from the netting, and soared “free and unconfined,” away, and was soon lost to view.

     Mr. Lauriat was kindly received on board the schooner and carried to Gloucester, where he arrived about 9 o’clock.  As he was very anxious to return home immediately, Mr. Mason, of the Stage House, generously conveyed him to Lynn, where he arrived at 1 o’clock this morning, pretty well satisfied, we hope, that ballooning is not the best mode of making gold leaf.

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     Another source (see below) lists the captain of the schooner as being a Captain John Pierce, not Paine, of Welfleet, Massachusetts. Lauriat was reportedly dragged through the sea for one hour and fifteen minutes over a distance of thirty miles in the direction of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, which is located north of Boston.   

     The balloon was not recovered, and was said to have cost $1,000, which was a huge sum of money in 1839. 

     *********

        Two years before the above incident, Mr. Lauriat may have been the first to use a balloon to drop leaflets.  The following news brief appeared in the (New York) Morning Herald, July 17, 1837,

     “Temperance Shower – Lauriat, at his last balloon ascension, distributed a shower of temperance tracts on the country around Boston.  This cold water shower had a very reviving effect upon the friends of the cause.  The utility of aerial navigation can no longer be questioned.”   

*********

     On June 17th, 1840, Lauriat made his 34th balloon ascension from Boston, and was in the air for nearly two hours.  

     Sources:

     Vermont Phoenix, “The Balloon – Perilous Voyage”, June 28, 1839 

     Lauriat’s – 1872 to 1922, “Being a Sketch of Early Boston Booksellers With Some Account of Charles E. Lauriat Company and its Founder, Charles E. Lauriat.”, Written for the Boston Evening Transcript by George H. Sargent, 1922.    

     Morning Herald, (New York) July 17, 1837     

     The Pilot And Transcript, June 22, 1840

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

     The earliest known balloon ascension to take place in the state of Massachusetts occurred on September 3, 1821, from the Washington Gardens on Treemont Street in Boston.  The pilot was a well known aeronaut by the name of Louis Charles Guille, who had begun making balloon ascensions in New Jersey in 1818.  The balloon landed on Ten Hills Farm in Somerville, a town just to the north of Boston.   

     Not only was this flight the first of its kind in the Bay State, but it also triggered what might be the first lawsuit involving a balloon.  Ten Hills Farm was owned at the time by a man named Swan, who sued Aeronaut Guille for damage to his vegetable crops. 

     The facts of the case were stated in a newspaper article which appeared in the New Ulm Review, (a Minnesota newspaper), on December 21, 1910, as part of an article about the potential liability attached to air travelers who may inadvertently cause damage to private property on the ground.  The case involving Louis Charles Guille was cited as a president even though it had occurred 89 years earlier.     

     The article stated in part:

    ” The facts are there stated as follows: Guille ascended in a balloon in the vicinity of Swan’s garden and descended into his garden.  When he descended, his body was hanging out of the car of the balloon in a very perilous situation, and he called to a person at work in Swan’s field to help him in a voice audible to the pursuing crowd.  After the balloon descended it dragged along over potatoes and radishes about thirty feet, when Guille was taken out.  The balloon was carried to a barn at the farther end of the premises.

     When the balloon descended more than 200 persons broke into Swan’s garden through the fences and came on his properties, beating down his vegtables and flowers.  The damage done by Guille with his balloon was about $15, but the crowd did much more.  The plaintiff’s damage in all amounted to $90.

     It was contended before the justice that Guille was answerable only for the damage done by himself and not for the damage done by the crowd.  The justice was of the opinion, and so instructed the jury, that the defendant was answerable for all the damage done to the plaintiff.  The jury accordingly found a verdict for him for $90, on which the judgement was given and for costs.”     

     The sum of ninety-dollars was a significant amount of money in 1821.  Guille appealed, but the decision was upheld.  The court ruled in part that Guille was a trespasser, (although not intentionally), and that his shouts for help “induced the crowd to follow him”, which in turn made him liable.  

      Sources:

     New York Tribune, “New Laws For Air Travel Soon To Be Broached”, October 24, 1909, page 3.  

     New Ulm Review, (Minnesota), “Air Trespassing May Be Costly”, December 21, 1910      

     Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society, www.massaerohistory.org

     Book: “North Jersey Legacies: Hidden History From The Gateway To The Skylands”, by Gordon Bond, The History Press, 2012

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Washington Standard, (Olympia, Washington), on May 18, 1894.   It is unclear what results, if any, were learned from this experiment, which appears to be the first ever of its kind. 

BALLOONING FOR LOST SOUNDS 

Uncle Sam’s Aeronaut Will Find Out What Ails Boston’s Fog Horns

New York World

     Thomas S. Baldwin, the aeronaut and gymnast, connected with the ballooning department of the signal service and war departments, has been ordered to Boston, where he will conduct a series of interesting and important experiments in aeronautics.  Vessels approaching Boston can be heard through their fog horns 15 miles out at sea, but when within three miles off shore the sound of the fog horn whistle is absolutely lost.  The question is, where does the sound go?

     It is proposed to investigate the upper atmosphere at a distance of 3,000 feet in the hopes of ascertaining whether the sounds from the whistles and fog horns do not go upward, as Mr. Baldwin believes such sounds do.  A monster balloon will be anchored to a government vessel, and will be allowed to ascend to any required distance by means of a wire cable worked by steam.  The vessel will cruse about off Boston and neighboring points to a distance of 10 or 15 miles, and sounds will be made from whistles and horns.  When within three or four miles of shore it is believed that the aeronaut in the balloon can ascertain whether the sound in getting lost ascends.

     In the coil of wire that is attached to the balloon is a telephone wire, by means of which Baldwin will communicate with officials on board the ship.  Major Livermore, of the government service with his staff, will assist the aeronaut in his work, which will probably occupy some months, and perhaps a year.  After these experiments are concluded, Baldwin will turn his attention to experiments in war ballooning, for the benefit of the War Department.

    

        

Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps – 1909

Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps – 1909

 

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), on August 15, 1909, page 20.  It is unclear if the Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps ever came to fruition.   

 

Bay State Is To Have Volunteer Balloon Corps

     BOSTON, Aug. 14. – Massachusetts is to have the first “volunteer balloon corps” in the world, according to the announcement made today by Charles J. Glidden, the well known aeronaut and automobilist who is now making plans for organizing the aeronautic corps this fall.  Recognition from the state militia will be sought.

     The volunteer corps will consist of men of prominence, who are interested in aeronautics, and will be made up of two divisions, pilot and meteorological.  The pilot division will include the leading balloonists now making ascensions in Massachusetts for pleasure.  Those who have been invited to join the meteorological are Prof. W. Pickering, and Prof. A. Lawrence Rotch of Harvard, Prof. David Todd of Amherst, and Prof. Helm Clayton, formerly of the Blue Hill Observatory.

       

Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909

Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909

 

     On Tuesday, September 16, 1909, the balloon “Massachusetts” made an ascension from Pittsfield, Mass., and while more than 7,000 feet in the air became the first balloon in aviation history to have a Masonic meeting conducted in its basket.   The Massachusetts was owned by the Aero Club of New England.

     The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, (of Guildhall, Vermont) on September 24, 1909. 

     “Aerial Lodge, No. 1, F. & A. M., was formed last Thursday afternoon in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, it being the first meeting of the kind ever held, and the lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  The balloon ascended from Pittsfield, and the Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey.  This item has a peculiar interest to our readers in Essex County, inasmuch as Jay B. Benton, formerly of Guildhall, is senior warden of the new lodge.”  

     The following article appeared in the Evening Star, (Washington, D. C. ), on September 25, 1909, page 3.   

     “The latest in the way of novelty is the institution of a Masonic lodge in a balloon more than a mile in the air.  This happened at or near Pittsfield, Mass., recently, when Aerial Lodge A. F. & A. M., was instituted in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, this being the first meeting of the kind ever held.

     The lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  J. J. Van Valkenburg of South Framingham was worshipful master; Jay B. Benton of Winchester was senior warden, and Charles J. Glidden of Boston junior warden.

     The Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey, the details of which were recounted when the party descended at Greenfield, Mass., after considerable difficulty in getting the huge gas bag and its numerous trappings out of the forest.

     The start was made in the afternoon at 2:05 o’clock from the grounds of the Aero Club of New England, at Pittsfield.  At the highest point recorded, 7, 200 feet, the Masonic ceremony took place.”  

Rockville Collegiate Balloon School – 1917

Rockville Collegiate Balloon School – 1917

     The Rockville Collegiate Balloon School was established in September of 1917 as a training school for perspective army observation balloon pilots.  Rockville is a village within the town of Vernon, Connecticut, however, the school was actually located in the former Windermere factory building in the neighboring town of Ellington.   

     The school was set up to train up to 100 students at a time.  During preliminary study, cadets were paid $33 a month, which included food, clothing, and a place to sleep.  After two months of courses, they were sent to training camps to continue their studies, during which time they would be paid $100 per month.  Upon graduation they would be commissioned lieutenants in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and receive $2,000 per year.

     The school was administered by Everard Thompson.  The Chief Pilot was Nason Henry Arnold, who held pilot license #14 with the Aero Club of America.  Nason had been flying balloons for fourteen years, and had participated in the International Balloon Race held in Germany in 1908.  Another instructor known to have taught at the school was Walter Jewell. 

     Three students known to have attended the school are; E. H. Millikan, E. L. Taylor, and W. S. Sweeney. 

     The first balloon ascension from the school took place on September 11, 1917, when a balloon containing Nason H. Arnold and Walter Jewell reached an altitude of 6,500 feet as it drifted over the town of Willimantic and beyond.  The balloon came down on the farm of Joseph Nosal, located in Windham near the Lebanon town line.   

     The second flight took place two days later on September 13.  This ascension involved one of the school’s largest balloons, the 80,ooo cubic foot America II, which had once flown over Europe from Paris, France, to Berlin, Germany.   The flight ended when the balloon landed near Andover, Massachusetts.  It was reported that an unconfirmed report indicated one man had been injured during the landing.    

     About a week later, the balloon Cleveland ascended with Nason Arnold, student E. L. Taylor, and a cameraman identified as W. F. Bergstron of Hartford, Connecticut.  Bergstron worked for the Mutual Film Corporation, and it was his job to film the ascension from the point of view of the occupants of the balloon to be used for lecture purposes at the school.   The Cleveland rose to 5,200 feet as it passed over Willimantic, and landed safely in the town of Hampton, 35 miles from its starting point.  

     On October 18, Nason Arnold made an ascension with Congressman John Q. Tilson, a member of the House Committee on Military Affairs.  After a three hour flight the balloon landed at Long Meadow, Massachusetts.  

     On October 24, 1917, a balloon from the Rockville Collegiate Balloon School made an ascension in Springfield, Massachusetts as part of the Liberty Loan Campaign.   

     Sources:

     Images of America, Vernon and Historic Rockville, by S. Ardis Abbott & Jean A. Luddy, Arcadia Press, 1998

     Air Service Journal, September 6, 1917, Page 277.

     Norwich Bulletin, “Various Matters”, August 17, 1917, page 5

     Norwich Bulletin, “Government Balloon Comes From Rockville”, September 12, 1917, page 2

     Norwich Bulletin, “Second balloon Flight”, September 14, 1917, page 2

     The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, (VT.), “Camera Man Has Trip In Balloon”, September 25, 1917

     Norwich Bulletin, “Various Matters”, October 24, 1917, page 5

     Aerial Age Weekly, “Congressman Up In The Air”, October 29, 1917

A Balloon Mystery, Cumberland, R.I. – 1888

A Balloon Mystery, Cumberland, Rhode Island – 1888

     About 7:00 p.m. in the evening on September 28, 1888, an unmanned balloon came down in a cusp of trees on the Razee Farm in the Cumberland Hill area of the town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  The craft had some signs of age to it, and was in poor condition. 

     When the balloon was recovered and laid out in an open area to be examined, it was found that there was a large slit in the side. The neck of the balloon contained a nine-inch valve made of wood and leather, on which was found a name written in pencil: “Carl Myers, Mohawk, N. Y.”

     Further investigation revealed a paper tag from the American Express Company marked “162, owner S. Y. Baldwin, Freehold, N. Y.”   There was also found a piece of silk marked “Buffalo, 27-413 lbs. Dec. 1887. F. Cloud.”

     The seams along the balloon measured 40 feet 6 inches. 

     The ropes attached to the balloon’s netting appeared old, but the netting containing the balloon appeared to be new.  The balloon’s iron ring was two feet in diameter and made from a welded piece of 1/2 inch gas pipe.

     Nobody knew where the balloon had come from, or if an aeronaut had met with misfortune.  Severe weather had been over southern New England the day before and it was wondered if that could have played a role.   

     The story was picked up by a few newspapers around the country, all reporting that a handwritten note was found pinned to the balloon’s basket.  Two versions of what the note supposedly said were reported in different papers.  The first, “We have perished in the clouds”, and the second, “Met death in the clouds”.   The note was allegedly written on a small piece of newspaper from Buffalo, New York.   However, The Woonsocket Evening Reporter, a newspaper that covered Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and its neighboring town of Cumberland, had this to say about the note: “The story was told that in the car was found a slip of paper on which was written, “Met our death in the clouds,” but a reporter who examined the contents could not find any such paper.”   

      Carl Myers was well known in balloon circles at the time, for besides being an aeronaut, he was also a scientist, inventor, and manufacturer of man-carrying balloons which he built and sold from his “balloon farm” in upstate New York.   When contacted about the balloon found in Cumberland he said he knew nothing about it, and offered that it might be one he’d sold.  The only balloon he’d “lost” was at a July 4th exhibition in Willimantic, Connecticut, but it had been recovered in southern Rhode Island.     

Advertisement from The United Opinion newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, June 17, 1887.

The ad was promoting the Lyndonville, Vt., July 4th Celebration.

      Myers wife, Mary, was also a well known aeronaut who went by the professional name of “Carlotta”.  On September 26th Carlotta and a man she worked with, Leon A. Dare, were to have participated in a balloon race at Syracuse, New York, and on September 28th Carlotta was to have made an ascension at Lockport, New York.  Both Carlotta and Mr. Dare were found to be safe, and unconnected with the balloon found in Cumberland.

     “I have sold a number of balloons,” Myers was quoted in the Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “but cannot for  the life of me surmise who this balloon could belong to.  I think someone must have pinned the paper on the balloon when found, so as to make a sensation.” 

     Famous Rhode Island aeronaut, Professor James Allen of Providence, went to the Razee Farm to offer his opinion.  Allen noted that the balloon was made of cotton cloth and not silk.  Measurements revealed that the balloon was 27 feet in diameter, which would give it a gas capacity of 8,000 cubic feet, thereby making it large enough to only lift the weight of one person during an ascension.  Allen speculated that based on how the ropes were attached, and the fact that there was no anchor or drag rope, the balloon may have been used for trapeze work, and that the performer may have fallen during an exhibition, or landed at some location where the balloon then escaped.  If it had been filled with hydrogen gas then his theory was plausible. 

     The mystery, it seems, was cleared up when a small news item appeared in The United Opinion, a newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, on October 5th.  It read:     “Chief of Police Child of Providence has received a letter from S. Y. Baldwin, the parachute jumper, concerning the balloon found in Cumberland Thursday night.  Baldwin parted company with it at Freehold, N. J. that afternoon. “

     No further details were given, and thus far research has failed to find any.

     The news item states “Freehold, N. J.” but based on what was reported earlier about the American Express tag found in the balloon, it was most likely referring to the small town of Freehold, New York, which is about 145 to 150 miles “as the crow flies” from Cumberland, R.I.   

     This news item about the letter was not found in the Woonsocket Evening Reporter.

      Sources:

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “That Balloon”, September 29, 1888, page 1 

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “Derelict Air Ship”, September 29, 1888, page 4

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “That Vagrant Balloon”, October 1, 1888, page 4 

     Woonsocket Evening Reporter, “Balloon Mystery Yet Unsolved”, October 2, 1888, page 4

     New York Times, “The Lost Balloon”, September 30, 1888

     The United Opinion, (VT.) “Condensed News”, October 5, 1888

 

First Vermont Woman To Fly In A Balloon – 1909

First Vermont Woman To Fly In A Balloon – 1909

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, (Barre, Vermont), on August 13, 1909.

LANDED IN BRANDON

**********

Yesterday’s Balloon Ascension

At Rutland Had Lady Passenger

     “Rutland, Aug. 13. – Mrs. Edith I. Sawyer, a reporter on the Evening News in this city, has the distinction of being the first woman in Vermont to make a balloon ascension.  She was a passenger yesterday afternoon in the big balloon Heart of the Berkshires, piloted by William Van Sleet. 

     The ascent was made at 3:25 and was witnessed by a large number of people.  Ezra Allen of Fowler was the second passenger in the car.  Harold F. Keyes of Boston was to have been a passenger, but failed to show up.  A place was then offered to Charles S. Fairfield, editor of the Evening news, and he assigned Mrs. Sawyer, who was in the crowd watching the ascension, to make the trip.

     The big bag was in sight from this city until after five o’clock and the landing was made near Brandon, on land belonging to Dr. O. A. Gee, shortly after that time.  The balloon was seen by many people as it slowly traveled in a southerly direction, and in some instances people on the ground talked with the occupants.  At Fowler the balloon had dropped so low this it was necessary to throw out considerable ballast, and they were plainly seen by the operatives in the mill at that point.

     The landing was made easily and without mishap and the party returned to this city shortly after 11 o’clock.”      

Update January 29, 2017

     Mrs. Sawyer may been the first woman born in Vermont to make a balloon ascension, but the following advertisement promoting the 1887 Lyndonville, Vermont, July 4th celebration indicates that the first woman to go aloft in a balloon over Vermont might have been Mary Myers, (1849-1932,) of Mohawk, New York, better known by her professional name of “Carlotta”.  She was married to Carl Myers, a famous aeronaut and inventor of the time.   

    

Advertisement from The United Opinion newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, June 17, 1887.
The ad was promoting the Lyndonville, Vt., July 4th Celebration.

 

 

 

Near Middlefield, MA – May, 1907

Near Middlefield, Massachusetts – May, 1907

(Exact date is unclear.)  

     At 8 a.m. on a morning in late May of 1907, aeronauts Leo Stevens and Harry Maroke took off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in the famous balloon Le. Centaur.  (This was the same balloon that had carried Count Henri de la Vaulx in a record breaking trip across Europe from Paris, France, to Kiev, Russia in October of 1900.)     

     The balloon quickly rose to 6,000 feet as the winds carried it on an eastern course.  The craft reportedly rose so rapidly that the heat of the sun caused the gas inside to expand to the point where holes blew out in two different places creating leaks and a sudden loss of buoyancy.  As the balloon began falling the men quickly ejected all ballast and other items of weight including their lunch baskets, shoes, and outer clothing.   They did however keep the anchor and two other items, a stethoscope and a thermometer aboard.

     At the time they were reportedly “near the town of Mansfield, Massachusetts”.  As the balloon fell it was still being pushed along by strong winds, and it seemed certain to crash.  As it neared the ground, the anchor was dropped and it caught on a fence and immediately tore it apart.  The balloon continued on for another one-hundred feet before the anchor snagged in a maple tree which halted movement long enough for the occupants to quickly climb down the anchor rope and down the tree to safety. 

     It was reported that the damage to the balloon was such that it would never fly again.  The balloon had a capacity of 1,600 cubic feet.

     The Le Centaur was brought to the United States in 1906 by its owner, Count Henri de la Vaulx, and later acquired by the Aero Club of America.    

     Sources:

     The Evening World, (NY), “Frightful Fall In Burst Balloon”, May 24, 1907. 

     The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.), “Two Men Fall A Mile”, May 30, 1907.  (This is not a new England newspaper and the exact date of this occurrence is not specified.)   

 

The Balloon Le Centaur – 1906

The Balloon Le Centaur – 1906 

 

     The following articles concern a famous balloon know as Le Centaur, which was sometimes referred to in the press as simply “Centaur”.  The Le Centaur was well known for having set a new world distance record for a balloon in October of 1900 when it flew non-stop from Paris, France, to Kiev, Russia, a distance, (Reportedly measured, “as the crow flies”) of 1,304 miles.      

     The Le Centaur and two other balloons, the L’Orient, and the L’Union, were owned by Count Henri de la Vaulx of France, who brought all three to the United States in March of 1906.    

     The following article about a balloon race from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Bennington, Vermont, appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner newspaper on October 22, 1906.  Only two balloons were involved with the race, the Centaur, and the Orient.

     Note:  Although the article states the balloons are named Centaur and Orient, other sources identify them as being Le. Centaur and L’Orient.  

  SMALL BALLOON WINS CONTEST

     “The contestants in the balloon race which started out of Pittsfield at 10:23 o’clock this morning arrived here about 1 o’clock this afternoon.

     The Centaur , the larger balloon of the two, piloted by Charles T. Walsh and having as passengers Captain Charles F. Chandler and Major Samuel Reber, U.S. Signal Corps, reached the village several minutes ahead of the Orient.  After passing over the village in an easterly direction the balloon began to sink.  People at the house of Frank Cromack, by means of a glass, saw the balloonists throwing out ballast, but the big bag had apparently begun to lose gas.  An anchor was thrown out and caught in the trees so that the occupants were in no danger of injury.  The balloon still had sufficient buoyancy to keep clear of the trees and the occupants were apparently not at all alarmed.

     The smaller balloon, the Orient, piloted by Leo Stevens and containing Captain Homer W. Hedge, president of the Aero Club of America, passed over town in a northerly direction almost in a straight line along North Street and went out of sight shortly before 2 o’clock.

     Soon after the small balloon passed over the village the first of the five automobiles that started out in chase of the balloons from Pittsfield arrived , coming down South Street like an express train.  The men were covered with mud and said that the trip had been a hard one.  After taking in gasoline at Phelan’s Garage the automobiles again took up the pursuit of the larger balloon.

     At 3 o’clock observers at Arlington informed the Banner by telephone that the balloon was still in sight from there but far to the northeast and working north close to the mountain range.”

     Source: The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, VT.),  “Small Balloon Wins Contest”, October 22, 1906

     The following article appeared in the Abilene Weekly Reflector on October 25, 1906.

A BALLOON RACE

     “Pittsfield, Mass. Oct 23 – Two balloons, Centaur and L’Orient, which remained here after the aero-automobile race between balloons and automobiles for the Hawley Cup had been declared off last Saturday , participated in an endurance contest Monday which carried them miles over northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont.  The balloon L’Orient outsailed the Centaur by about three hours and a half, finally landing in the little mountainous town of Jamaica in Windham County, Vermont, 57 miles from the start.  The Centaur came down in Bennington, Vt., 30 miles from this city.

     The balloons rose from here at 10:20 a.m.  The Centaur carried Charles T. Walsh, pilot, and Maj. Samuel Reber and Capt. Charles F. Chandler, of the signal corps U.S.A.  L’Orient was piloted by Leo Stevens, who had as his companion Capt. Homer W. Hedge, president of the Aero Club of America.  The balloons were in sight of each other for about three hours and after them sped three automobiles which had been entered in the Hawley Cup contest on Saturday.  The Centaur was slightly behind L’Orient in crossing the Vermont border, and after getting over Bennington, Pilot Walsh decided to land.  The descent was successfully accomplished on the slope of Woodford Mountain.   

     The occupants of the Centaur said on landing that they considered their object accomplished and that their trip has been highly successful from a scientific standpoint.  The Centaur reached a height of 6,200 feet.

     After seeing the Centaur descend, Pilot Stevens of L’Orient decided to keep on.  Twenty-seven more miles of southern Vermont was traveled and at 4:30 L’Orient came down in Jamaica. 

     Mr. Stevens said after landing that L’Orient went 8,000 feet into the air.  Above the clouds the heat was so intense that all outside clothing had to be discarded.  At one time the thermometer registered 106 degrees.

     Twenty-five minutes after Centaur landed in Bennington an automobile driven by Floyd Knight of this city stopped by the side of the car.  Half an hour later an automobile owned by C. F. Bishop of Lenox arrived on the scene.

     Both these machines had followed the balloons as an experiment, although both airships were out of sight much of the time.”

     Source: Abilene Weekly Reflector, (Abilene Kan.) “A Balloon Race”, October 25, 1906       

     On November 3, 1906 the Centaur, or Le. Centaur, took off from Pittsfield, Mass. and landed in a clump of trees on Short Beach in New Haven, Connecticut.  (Some sources put the location in Branford.  Each town apparently has a “Short Beach”.)

     What was remarkable about the 126 mile trip (Some sources put the distance at 156 miles.) was that it was made in only two-and-a-half hours, which was considered very fast for a balloon to travel at that time.   The aeronauts aboard, Leo Stevens, and Captain Homer Hedge, reported that at one point the balloon moved along at 65 miles per hour.    News reports stated, “…the speed attained has not been equaled in this country.”

     The trip would have lasted longer, but the aeronauts didn’t want to cross Long Island Sound, so they quickly brought the balloon down from an altitude of 3,000 feet in only 90 seconds.  Captain Hedge suffered a minor injury climbing down from the balloon.

     The Le Centaur, was later wrecked in late May of 1907 when it again rose from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and developed two tears in the balloon envelope caused by a rapid expansion of the buoyant gas inside due to the heat of the sun.  The craft came down near Middlefield, Mass., and both men aboard, Leo Stevens, and Harry Markoe, escaped unharmed.  It was reported that the damage to the balloon was such that it could never be used again.

      Sources:

     The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.) “Two Men Fall A Mile”, May 30, 1907

     The Evening World, (NY), “Frightful Fall In A Burst Balloon”, May 24, 1907

     New York Tribune, “Autos Chase Balloon”, November 4, 1906

     The Barre Daily Times, (Barre, VT), Balloon Records beaten”, November 5, 1906

     Deseret Evening News, (Utah), “Remarkable Ballooning”, October 12, 1900

     New York Tribune, “To Fly To South Pole – Count de la Vaulx Arrives With Plans Of Daring Balloon Venture”, March 25, 1906 

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