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

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

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  

 

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