Billerica, MA – June 27, 1940

Billerica, Massachusetts – June 27, 1940

     At about 7 p.m. on the night of June 27, 1940, a four passenger biplane was passing over the town of Billerica when, according to a witness, something fell from the aircraft.  Just afterwards, the plane went into a sideslip before falling from an altitude of approximately 500 feet and crashing into a wooded area of town known as Garden City.   The pilot and two passengers aboard were killed.

     The pilot was identified as Elliot Underhill, 43, of, Spotswood, New Jersey.  The two passengers were identified as Walter Abrams, 32, of Lowell, Massachusetts, and Edwin Martin, 22, of Billerica. 

     Mr. Underhill was an experienced pilot.  He served as a pilot with the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1st Aero Squadron from 1917 to 1920.

     Sources:

     The Lowell Sun, “Federal Probe Of Plane Crash – Three Killed In No. Billerica”, June, 28, 1940, page 1.

     www.findagrave.com, Elliot Underhill, Memorial #43985518

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.

*********

     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

Off Revere Beach, MA – June 6, 1907

Off Revere Beach, Massachusetts – June 6, 1907  

     The following article appeared in The Sun, a now defunct New York newspaper, on June 7, 1907.  It tells of a flight over Boston made by famous aeronaut Lincoln Beachey that ended with his unintentional landing in the water one mile off shore from Revere Beach.  Beachey’s “flying machine” was constructed with a motor and a balloon, and was not an airplane.   

SAILS THE AIR OVER BOSTON

     Aeronaut Beachey Finally Is Fished Out Of The Water Off Revere Beach

     Boston, June 6, – After an exciting trip over greater Boston, Lincoln Beachey of San Francisco dropped with is flying machine into the water between Nahant and revere Beach late this afternoon and was rescued by four boats which had been chasing his disabled air craft for half an hour.

     He made his flight from an amusement place at Revere Beach to Boston Common and back, as he had promised, but many times on the way he was in danger.  Twice his motor broke down; once shortly after he had crossed the Mystic River, and again after he had got back into midair after a descent at Winthrop for temporary repairs.

     The second time he was carried several miles in the direction of Boston Light.  Then he got temporary control of the machine again and sailed over Nahant, and finally, a mile off Revere Beach, he dropped into the water.  The boats which had started after him when he was seen wabbling in the air above Winthrop soon reached him and fifteen minutes later had him and his airship on shore.

     On the way to the Commons he circled his airship twice around the State dome and dropped a message for Gov. Guild.  The Governor and most of the legislators crowded the balconies and sidewalks about the State House as the airship sailed over them.  There were 50,000 persons on the Common when the airship descended near the Soldiers Monument.        

Clinton, MA – September 14, 1899

Clinton, Massachusetts – September 14, 1899

     On September 14, 1899, the eleventh annual Worcester East Agricultural Fair was in progress in Clinton, Massachusetts, a small town to the northeast of Worcester, Mass.  Part of the advertised entertainment included a balloon ascension and parachute drop to be performed by a Boston aeronaut identified as “Professor Beaumont”.   

     Just as the balloon began to rise, the crowd of 5,000 spectators could see that the bottom of the wicker basket was on fire, which was not part of the act.  Beaumont was powerless to do anything from his position, and was forced to stay with the balloon as it continued to rise and burn.  (How the fire was believed to have begun was not stated.)

     Finally the balloon reached an altitude where it was safe for Beaumont to jump and deploy his parachute, which he did, and landed without injury.

     Source: The Daily Morning Journal And Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “Balloon Caught Fire” September 15, 1899

 

Boston, MA – May 23, 1896

Boston, Massachusetts – May 23, 1896

     At 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, 1896, a balloon ascension was scheduled to take place at the Congress Street ball fields in Boston.  The man advertised to fly the balloon was an aeronaut identified only as “Strickland”. 

    At the appointed time the balloon was to rise to an altitude of 5,000 feet where Strickland was to perform daring feats on a trapeze suspended beneath the balloon, and then drop using a parachute and land back on the ball fields.   Unfortunately as the balloon was being filled with hot air it was accidentally set on fire and quickly eaten by the flames. 

     The crowd, of course, demanded a refund of their ticket money, which likely would have been done, however, some chose not to wait and started a riot.  During the melee a dozen people were injured and Strickland himself, it was reported, “would have been killed but for the resistance of a squad of policemen.”       

     Source: Vermont Phoenix, “Massachusetts Notes – Balloon Ascended In Smoke”, May 29, 1896

Waltham, MA – July 4, 1892

Waltham, Massachusetts – July 4, 1892

     On July 4, 1892, aeronaut Frank P. Shattuck of Malden, Mass., was scheduled to make a balloon ascension from Waltham.  An estimated 10,000 people had gathered for the event.  As the balloon began to rise it was caught by a strong breeze and pushed into some nearby tree tops where the basket was raked through the upper branches before becoming hopelessly entangled in some telephone and telegraph wires that ran near the Park Theatre. 

     The wind continued to buffet the balloon causing it to sway back and forth, at times coming close to the roof of the theatre.  There were some people on the roof who had gone there to watch the ascension that suddenly found themselves in danger of being brushed off by the giant gas-bag.  Shattuck, meanwhile, was trapped in the swaying basket 60 feet above the street.  At one point the basket dipped low enough for those on the roof to grab him as he leaped from the basket. 

     Source:

    Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Burlington, VT.) “Another Rogers Balloon – Frank Shattuck of Malden Has A Narrow Escape From death”, July 7, 1892

Boston Harbor, MA – July 4, 1888

Boston Harbor, Massachusetts – July 4, 1888

 

     At 6 p.m. on the evening of July 4, 1888, a balloon rose from the Boston Common and drifted eastward over the harbor where it unexpectedly came down in the water not far from an area of land known as Point Shirley, which is located in the neighboring town of Winthrop.  A strong wind was blowing, and the occupants of the balloon were dragged for three miles through the choppy waters until rescued by the crew of a steam powered yacht identified as the Rose G. 

     A newspaper account stated, “After much trouble the party were taken aboard and all were safely brought to the city.  The journey was a most perilous one, and the escape from death of the excursionists almost miraculous.”  

     The names of the balloon’s occupants weren’t given.

     Source: The Indianapolis Journal, (Indiana), “Aeronauts In Peril”, July 6, 1888  

 

Worcester, MA – August 22, 1906

Worcester, Massachusetts – August 22, 1906 

 

     On the evening of August 22, 1906, 15-year-old Charles Mayo of New York was to be paid five dollars to make a balloon ascension all by himself from the grounds of an amusement park.  (There is no mention of his having any previous experience with balloons.) 

     After being tied in the wicker basket hanging beneath the balloon, the ascension was made, but in coming down the basket slammed into the roof of a home belonging to a family named Moon.  It was reported that Mayo received “severe injuries” from the impact. 

     Source:

     New York Tribune, (No Headline), August 24, 1906, page 3, under general news.       

Marblehead, MA – May 7, 1915

Marblehead, Massachusetts – May 7, 1915

 

     On May 7, 1915, Aviator Clifford L. Webster, and a mechanic identified as “Carman”, were making a test flight over Marblehead of a Burgess airplane which had been built for Vincent Astor.  While over the water of near Marblehead Neck the engine suddenly stopped and the plane crashed into a sea wall on the ocean side of the causeway that connected Marblehead Neck with the rest of the town.   After striking the seawall, the aircraft continued on across the road where both men were pitched out.  Webster suffered a broken arm.  No injuries for the mechanic were reported.     

     Source: The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, (Brattleboro, VT.) “Aviator Was Badly Injured”, May 7, 1915, page 5

Marblehead Bay, MA – April 6, 1912

Marblehead Bay, Massachusetts – April 6, 1912

 

     On April 6, 1912, airplane pioneer and builder, W. Sterling Burgess, was on Marblehead Bay with his “hydro-aeroplane” preparing to take off when the engine backfired setting the canvas of the left wing on fire.  Burgess battled the flames with his coat and managed to save the aircraft which reportedly suffered about $250 in damage – a large sum for the time.  Men in several nearby motor boats came to aid Burgess and tow the aircraft back to shore.

     Source:

     The Evening World, (New York), “Fights For Life As Flames Wrap Hydro-Aeroplane”          

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