Springfield, MA. – October 18, 1910

Springfield, MA. – October 18, 1910

     On October 18, 1910, aviator Louis G. Erickson, 32, was piloting a Curtiss biplane over Springfield.  At one point, as he was making a turn, the aircraft suddenly dropped from an altitude of about forty feet and fell into the top of a tree.  Erickson was tossed clear by the impact, and fell the rest of the way to the ground.  He was unconscious when help arrived, but he later recovered. The aircraft was reported to be “considerably damaged”.     


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Aviator Falls In Springfield”, October 19, 1910 

Pittsfield, MA. – July 4, 1911

Pittsfield, Massachusetts – July 4, 1911

     On July 4, 1911, aviator Charles C. Witmer was piloting a Curtiss biplane over Pittsfield when he encountered a sudden thunder and lightning storm that was producing severe winds.  A sudden gust of wind caught his airplane and capsized it in mid-air while he was at an altitude of 400 feet.  This caused Witmer to lose control, and the aircraft plunged to the ground.  Witmer was taken to House of Mercy Hospital with internal injuries, but it was reported that he was expected to recover.

     As a point of fact, Witmer did recover, and lived until 1929.  To find out more about Charles Witmer, see http://earlyaviators.com/ewitmer.htm


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Biplane Capsized; Aviator Badly Hurt”, July 5, 1911    

Boston, MA – July 4, 1879

Boston, Massachusetts – July 4, 1879


     On July 4, 1879, Aeronaut George A. Rogers and four companions, Baldwin, Kater, Bradley, and Donahue, made a balloon ascension from the Boston Common.  The balloon then drifted eastward, passing over Faneuil Hall, then over part of Boston Harbor, and then over East Boston, Winthrop, and towards the open sea.  Not wanting to be pushed out to sea, a drag rope and grappling hook were thrown out.  Unfortunately, the grappling hook broke as soon as it hit the ground, and there was nobody in the vicinity to grab the drag rope. 

     Before long the men found themselves out over the open water, and as they were passing Deer Island they encountered a “pop-up” thunder shower.  The heavy rains pelted the balloon and caused it to abruptly drop towards the water. 

     Off in the distance crewmen aboard the steamer, Samuel L. Little, and the tug boat, Camilla, saw the plight of the aeronauts and each gave chase.  Meanwhile, the sloop-yacht, Magic, was heading inbound returning to Boston, and its crew saw the balloon being blown seaward in their general direction.  The Magic’s commander, Captain, Edward C. Neal, set an interception course and within a few minutes was able to throw a line to the balloon which was now very low to the water and six miles at sea.  The line was secured, and Captain Neal ordered a small boat into the water to be rowed directly under the balloon.   

     As this was being done, strong winds were buffeting the balloon, causing it to twist and sway while tugging on the rope.  Professor Rogers climbed into the hoop of the balloon to direct rescue operations and open the release valve, while Bradley climbed into the netting ready to grab any other lines that might be tossed.  Meanwhile, Kater and Donahue were pulling sandbags of ballast from the bottom of the gondola and throwing them into the sea.   Then without warning,  Baldwin was suddenly pitched from the basket, but managed to grab hold of the outside and hang on.  Then the rope leading to the Magic suddenly snapped and the jerk of the balloon that followed caused Baldwin to lose his grip and fall into the water.

     Fortunately by this time the Samuel L. Little had arrived on scene and managed to secure the balloon’s drag rope, thus preventing it from being blown away, however, as the drag rope became taunt it pulled Bradley from the netting and sent him falling.  As luck would have it he landed squarely in the small boat that had been launched from the Magic.  Although badly bruised, Bradley was able to assist in rescuing Baldwin from the water.  Fortunately he was quickly rescued.

     Now that the balloon had been relieved of the weight of two occupants, it suddenly shot upwards as far as the drag rope secured to the Samuel L. Little would allow.  As the balloon bobbed a few hundred feet in the air, Rogers managed to open the emergency valve and release some of the gas to escape from the balloon.  As the balloon dropped back towards the water, Rogers and the others were taken aboard the Samuel L. Little.   

     The balloon was also salvaged from the water and brought aboard the steamer.

     As a point of fact, this had been Professor Rogers 38th ascension.   


     The Cincinnati Daily Star, (Ohio), “Aeronautic Adventures – Mishaps That Befell Some Balloonists Yesterday”, July 5, 1879

     The Daily Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.) “Boston Ballooning – Peril Of A Fourth-Of-July Party Of Aerial Travelers”, July 10, 1879


Boston, MA. – October 6, 1915

Boston, Massachusetts – October 6, 1915


     As of the is posting, very little information is available about this accident.

     On October 6, 1915, Elmer Olsen, a parachute jumper from Boston, was scheduled to perform at a fair somewhere in Boston.  His act included ascending in a hot air balloon to a considerable height before jumping with seven parachutes, each to be used in succession until he reached the ground.  As he was discarding one chute in preparation of opening the next, something went wrong, and he fell to his death.


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Parachute Jumper Killed”, October 7, 1915  

North Adams, MA. – September 5, 1921

North Adams, Massachusetts – September 5, 1921


     On September 5, 1921, Eugene M. Stafford of Boston, was scheduled to perform a double parachute drop from his balloon at a fair in North Adams.  Once the balloon had reached an altitude above 1,000 feet, Stafford made his leap, and his first parachute opened successfully.  At 600 feet, he cut away from the first parachute, and attempted to deploy the second, but the harness he was wearing that was attached to both chutes suddenly separated and he fell away.  He fell to the ground and was killed.


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.) “Balloonist Killed Doing Double Parachute Jump”, September 6, 1921

Quincy, MA. – July 17, 1912

Quincy, Massachusetts – July 17, 1912

     On July 17, 1912, 17-year-old aeronaut Lawrence Stafford, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, was scheduled to perform a balloon ascension and parachute jump at a place known as Hough’s Neck in the town of Quincy.  Several hundred people had come to witness the event.

     When the balloon had reached an altitude of 2,000 feet Stafford made his jump, but the parachute failed to open.  He landed in shallow water in Quincy Bay and was killed. 


      Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Parachute Jumper Falls To His Death”, July 18, 1912

Taunton, MA. – September 24, 1902

Taunton, Massachusetts – September 24, 1902


     On September 24, 1902, the Bristol County Agricultural Society Fair was being held in Taunton, Massachusetts, and part of the entertainment featured balloon ascensions, and parachute drops. 

     One ascension was made safely by a man identified as Professor Stafford in the early afternoon.  Another was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. later that day, which would include a triple parachute drop to be performed by the professor,  his wife, and an assistant, Louis Girard. 

     At 4:30 p.m., the balloon lifted from the ground, but almost immediately it was apparent that something was wrong, and Mrs. Stafford dropped away safely. 

     The balloon then quickly rose to a height of 400 feet where it began to rip apart and collapse.  At this point the professor dropped away with his parachute and landed safely, but Girard became entangled in the ropes and couldn’t free himself.   The balloon came crashing down and struck with great force.  Girard was pulled unconscious from the wreck and taken to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries.  


     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Aeronaut Killed”, September 25, 1902 

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.


     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 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.  


     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.   


     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.        

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