New Britain, CT. – August 18, 1896

New Britain, Connecticut – August 18, 1896

 

     On the afternoon of August 18, 1896, aeronaut Dan Barnell was scheduled to make a balloon ascension and parachute jump at White Oak Park in New Britain.   As the balloon began to rise, flames suddenly became visible, and began to consume the balloon.  When the balloon reached an altitude of about 100 feet it stopped rising and began to rapidly fall back to earth.  Barnell jumped clear when the balloon was just a few feet from the ground, and his fall was broken by his brother-in-law, Charles Griswold, who managed to grab hold of him as he fell.   Neither Barnell or Griswold were injured but the balloon was damaged beyond repair.  The cause of the fire was not stated.

     The incident was also witnessed by Barnell’s wife.

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “New Britain Affairs – Dan Barnell Drops 100 Feet With His Balloon”, August 19, 1896

Salisbury, CT. – September 1, 1913

Salisbury, Connecticut – September 1, 1913

 

     On September 1, 1913, aeronaut Jack Crosby, 35, was giving a balloon exhibition at a fair in Salisbury, Connecticut.  Part of his act involved him to hang by his teeth while suspended from his balloon.   As he was performing about 75 feet in the air before a crowd of about 4,000 people, his balloon suddenly began to collapse, and as it fell it struck a telephone pole.  The impact knocked Crosby loose and he fell to the ground and received critical injuries.  The half inflated balloon then came down upon several spectators injuring some of them. 

     Crosby was transported to the hospital in Winsted. 

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.), “Balloonist Falls At Salisbury Fair”, September 2, 1912

 

Early Connecticut Balloon Ascensions (And Mishaps) of Professor Alfred E. Moore

Early Connecticut Balloon Ascensions (And Mishaps) Of Professor Alfred E. Moore  

     

     Professor Alfred E. Moore, (1858-1890), was an early Connecticut aeronaut from the town of Winsted, who was perhaps best known for his balloon ascensions with photographer John G. Doughty, (1857-1910), during which some of earliest aerial photographs of the Nutmeg State were taken. 

     Professor Moore’s first balloon ascension took place at the former Cherry Park in the town of Avon, Connecticut, on July 4, 1885. 

    On the evening of July 29th, 1885, Professor Moore and another well known Connecticut aeronaut, Silas M. Brooks, (1824-1906), made a balloon ascension from Winsted, Connecticut, in a balloon named “Winsted” after the town.  This was Moore’s second balloon flight.  The Winsted was reported to be “the largest balloon now in existence”, measuring 80 feet height and 120 feet around, with a gas capacity of 30,000 cubic feet, and capable of lifting 15,000 pounds.   Unfortunately, this flight ended badly when the balloon encountered a severe storm.   

     The following excerpt is from a newspaper article which appeared in the Alexandria Gazette, (Virginia), on August 4, 1885, detailing the ill fated flight.

     “The ascension was made from the public square in the center of the town.  Brooks and Moore entered the car and gave the word.  The cables were cast off and instantly the big machine of silk and cordage sped up into the air like a rifle bullet.  The size of the balloon and its light load, for others had been expected to join the party in the car, made its ascent unusually rapid.  All went well until the aeronauts had reached an elevation of 2,000 feet.  Although they were above the clouds, they were caught in a storm, which proved to be the heaviest experienced in that part of the state for years.  Becoming terrified by the lightning they began to descend, and passed through the cloud in safety, although the balloon suffered from the heavy rain and the gas began to escape.  When within 100 feet of the ground the machine was rocking violently from side to side.  As they fell the two men threw out sand bags, and, losing too much ballast, the balloon careened wildly.  The gas escaped, the car was overturned, Brooks and Moore lost their hold on the slippery rail and fell headlong from the car.  The crowds that had been cheering wildly a few minutes before stood out in the pouring rain in their eagerness to see the descent, and did their best to catch the aeronauts as they fell.  Brooks was picked up badly hurt.  He is expected to die.  Moore’s injuries are not so serious.”

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     History has shown that Silas Brooks survived his ordeal and lived for another 21 years.           

     About a month after that perilous flight, Professor Moore made his third balloon ascension on September 3, taking with him as a passenger photographer John Doughty.  

     The following article appeared in the Morning Journal And Courier of New Haven, Connecticut, on September 4, 1885.   It relates the details of that third flight, and also mentions the ill fated flight of July 29th.

THE BALLOONISTS

Their Arrival And Reception In Southington – The Aeronauts Experiences On Their Trip  

     Southington, Sept. 3. – Look!  Oh, Look!  See that big thing up there.  Oh! Charlie, why what is it?  Don’t you know?  Why it is a balloon.  Such were the remarks overheard by the Courier correspondent last evening as Prof. Moore with his balloon passed over this town as briefly noted in the Courier yesterday. For about twenty minutes hundreds of people kept their eyes heavenward awaiting with no little anxiety to see where and when the thing would drop.  About 6:20 the balloon made a descent and was lost from the sight of our townspeople.  Numerous were the queries as to where the balloon had landed, but about 8 o’clock they were all dispelled by the news of the arrival of J. C. Messenger and the two aeronauts, Alfred E. Moore and John G. Doughty.  After they had partaken of a lunch they were found at the Bradley House by your correspondent and the following was gleaned from the highflyers: “We left Winsted at 5 o’clock with our balloon and apparatus and made the ascent very rapidly.  The balloon was inflated near the gas works, from which spot we made our start.  Several persons tried to prevail on us to  wait until Thursday, but we made up our minds that procrastination was the thief of time, so we did not calculate on being robbed.  As soon as the ropes were cut we started on our journey and when about one thousand feet above Winsted we photographed the spectators and from (the) time we landed in Kensington on the farm of E. J. Whitehead we took twenty views of the different towns, lakes, groves, and mountains over which we traveled.  We made the distance of forty miles in one hour and twenty minutes.  The balloon when inflated stands forty feet high and is seventy-two feet in diameter, and weighs, with the basket, 500 pounds, and has a capacity of 30,000 cubic feet for the reception of gas.  The gas used in ascension was common illuminating gas.  The occupants of the basket at the time of making the ascension were myself, Alfred E. Moore, and Mr. John C. Doughty, son of the leading photographer, and a carrier pigeon, which we let loose when over Bristol.”  Mr. Moore further stated that this was his third ascension and that the balloon, which is his property, is the second one he ever saw, the first being the Fourth of July last, when he made an ascension from Cherry Park alone and traveled nineteen miles in sixteen minutes.  On the 29th of the same month he, in company with Professor Silas M. Brooks, who has made 166 ascensions in his life, made an ascent from Winsted and came very near being killed by the balloon being torn open.  Professor Brooks had his body blackened in a horrible manner.  Mr. Moore says that the beauty of riding in a balloon is that your course is all the at “double tracked; no danger of a collision up there.”  The balloon was carted to the depot this morning by a man named Carey and was the object of much curiosity.            

*********

     On October 1, 1886, Professor Moore experienced another aeronautical adventure in a balloon.  On that date he ascended from Bristol, Connecticut, and when the balloon had risen to about 8,000 feet it was caught in a strong northeast wind current which carried it towards Hartford at a rapid rate.  While passing over the city Moore began jettisoning ballast, which caused the balloon to suddenly plunge downwards where it came down in some trees on Birch Mountain in Manchester, Connecticut.   Local farmers had to cut down four trees to rescue Moore from his badly wrecked balloon.

     Moore had traveled a distance of 35 miles from his starting point in only 25 minutes, giving him an estimated speed of 84 mile per hour.   

     Professor Alfred Moore died July 15, 1890.  The following announcement appeared in the Evening Star, (A Washington, D.C. newspaper) on July 16, 1890.

DEATH OF A WELL-KNOWN AERONAUT    

     Alfred E. Moore, president of the franklin Moore Bolt Company at West Winsted, Conn., died yesterday of Bright’s disease.  He was prominently known in the iron trade of the country and had achieved a wide reputation as an aeronaut, having made a number of ascensions.  One of his most notable ascensions was made June 17, 1887, from Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis.  The monster balloon which Moore had built at his Connecticut home for this particular ascension, at the expense of a newspaper , had been waiting a week for favorable air currents.  The voyagers were Mr. Moore, in charge of the expedition; H. Allen Hazen of Washington, connected with the United States Signal Service, and Prof. John G. Doughty, photographer.  The highest point reached was 16,000 feet, greatest altitude, probably, ever reached by a balloon in this country.  A premature descent was made near Centralia, Ill., 55 miles northeast from St. louis, the balloon having become nearly unmanageable.  The landing was very difficult and dangerous.  The event was eminently successful from a scientific point of view, according to Prof. Hazen’s report.  It was the intention of the projectors that the balloon should land somewhere on the Atlantic coast, thus proving the existence of an easterly air current, but the failure to work satisfactorily prevented this.    

*********

     Alfred E. Moore is buried in Forest View Cemetery in Winsted, Ct.  

     It is unknown how many balloon ascensions Professor Moore made during his aeronautical career, but the following ascensions are documented:

     September 9, 1886: Moore ascended from the fair grounds at New Milford, Connecticut, and landed about one hour later in Merwinsville. 

     September 22, 1886:  Moore ascended from the fair grounds in Watertown, Connecticut, and landed 18 miles away on the farm of E. C. Stillman in Meriden, Conn.

     September 30, 1886: Moore ascended in his new balloon, “The Comet”, from the Southington Driving Park.  This was reportedly The Comet’s first flight.      

     Sources:

     Morning Journal And Courier, (New Haven, CT.) “The Great Winsted Balloon”, July 27, 1885

     Alexandria Gazette, (Virginia), “Fell from A Balloon”, August 4, 1885

     Morning Journal And Courier, Balloon Ascension Announcements, Spet. 9, 22, & 30, 1886

     Morning Journal And Courier, “A Terrific Balloon Ride”, October 2, 1886

     Evening Star, (Wash. D.C.), “Death Of A Well-Known Aeronaut”, July 16, 1890  

     www.findagrave.com, memorial # 123726647

Professor Donaldson’s Unexpected Voyage To Connecticut – 1873

Professor Donaldson’s Unexpected Voyage To Connecticut – 1873

    prof-donaldson-july-10-1919 Professor Washington Harrison Donaldson, (1840-1875) was a Balloonist from reading, Pennsylvania, known for making numerous ascensions during his career.  What was perhaps his most infamous ascension occurred on October 7, 1873, when he left New York on what was to be a transatlantic flight to England, but was forced down in New England instead.  What makes this flight by Donaldson historic is that it was the first known attempt by an aeronaut to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air.

     Since the first balloon flight in France in 1793, it had been every aeronaut’s ambition to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air, yet each knew that such a trip in a balloon was impossible, for once aloft a balloon was at the mercy of prevailing winds.  Then in 1843, an aeronaut named Professor John Wise came to the conclusion that such a trip was feasible if the balloon could reach a certain altitude where he believed there was a constant flow of air blowing from west to east.  If a balloon could reach that current of air, he speculated, it could easily cross the ocean.  Professor Wise petitioned Congress for money to develop his idea and to build a balloon, but he was turned down.   

     Professor Donaldson made his first balloon ascension from Reading, Pennsylvania, on August 30, 1871.  Within a year he’d established his reputation as an aeronaut and began to develop plans to build a balloon with which to attempt a trans-Atlantic trip to England utilizing the air currents Professor Wise believed existed.

     Initially Donaldson approached Boston municipal authorities asking for funds with which to build his balloon, and offered to begin his historic trip from that city, but was turned down.  Undaunted, he went to New York, and received funding from the Daily Graphic newspaper.  Thus, Donaldson’s balloon was christened, “The Daily Graphic”.   

     Donaldson’s balloon was massive, holding 300,000 square feed of gas, beneath which hung a life boat for use in the event of a water landing that was stocked with enough provisions to last forty days. 

     The balloon took off from the Capitolino Grounds in Brooklyn, New York, at 9:19 a.m. on the morning of October 7th.   Accompanying Professor Donaldson on his trans-Atlantic journey were Alfred Ford, and George Ashton Lunt. 

     A description of the ascent was reported in a local newspaper as follows: “The balloon arose with immense velocity.  The drag rope depending from the concentrating ring had been stretched out along the ground, and as the great air ship soared skyward it ripped the drag rope through the grass with a motion that can only be compared to an infuriated whale dragging a harpoon rope.  The crowd cheered lustily, the aeronauts responding by waving their hats and blowing a fog horn.”

     When the balloon reached about 5,000 feet prevailing winds began pushing it eastward, and then to the northeast carrying them over Westchester County, New York, and then over Connecticut.  At about 1:15 p.m. they passed over a mountain in Litchfield County Connecticut and found themselves above a valley surrounded by thick clouds, heavy rain, and gusty winds.  The storm was a violent one with strong winds spinning and buffeting the craft.  Then the balloon was caught in an updraft taking it high into the sky before it suddenly began falling back towards earth at great speed.  It descended to tree- top level, and was pulled across the tree tops about 30 feet off the ground.  At this point the men decided to abandon the balloon and jump.  Donaldson and Ford leapt at the same moment, but Lunt was delayed.  The sudden loss of weight caused the balloon to suddenly shoot skyward again taking Lunt with it.  Before long it disappeared back into the storm clouds. 

     Donaldson and Ford alighted on the farm of Charles Lewis in North Canaan, Connecticut, relatively unhurt.  At this point there was nothing they cold do for Lunt.   

     In his statement to the press Lunt later recalled his experience:  “We were attacked by a tremendous squall of wind and rain at fifteen minutes past one o’clock, and were driven near the earth with frightful velocity.  Everything was thrown overboard without avail, and as we were dashed to the earth Donaldson and Ford sprang out, and the balloon shot into the air, bearing me with it, and was speedily in the storm-cloud again, and being whirled about in the most alarming manner.  I shouted to Donaldson for directions but could hear no reply, and was left to my own resources,  The bag was shaking above me with awful force, and I could see nothing, so thick was the cloud.  I seized the valve cord and attempted to open it.  Could not open it.  The cord became entangled with the neck.  Suddenly tree tops shot up through the fog, and in an instant the balloon was whirling through branches.  I climbed out of the boat to a place above the ring, and as the balloon rushed into a thicket of trees I swung myself out and dropped among the branches.

     The boat scraped over me and detached my hands.  I dropped to earth, surprised to find myself unhurt.  I started to walk back in the supposed right direction, and met four men running after me.  I offered them a large reward to capture the balloon, then out of sight.  They have gone in pursuit in the locality of Canaan, Connecticut. I was driven to the station by Dr. William Adams, where Ford and Donaldson arrived soon after.”

     The balloon was later recovered in a severely battered condition about a mile from the Lewis farm .  

     Professor Donaldson was later lost in a balloon ascension from Chicago over Lake Michigan in 1875.  Neither he nor his balloon were recovered.  

     To learn more about Professor Donaldson’s balloon flights, see the 1875 book “History of Donaldson’s Balloon Ascensions”, (With illustrations.)

     Updated May 5, 2017

     An interesting newspaper article relating to the missing Professor Donaldson appeared in The Morning Herald, (Wilmington, Del.) on December 22, 1876. 

The Morning Herald
December 22, 1876

 

     Sources:

     New York Daily Tribune, “Voyaging In The Sky”, July 6, 1859 

     The Rutland Daily Globe, “The Ocean Balloon”, October 9, 1873

     Yorkville Enquirer, (George A. Lunt’s statement), October 16, 1873       

     Wikipedia – Washington Harrison Donaldson  

     Book, “History of Donaldson’s Balloon Ascensions”, Complied by M. L. Amick M.D., Cincinnati News Co., 1875

 

Willimantic, CT – September 15, 1910

Willimantic, Connecticut – September 15, 1910

 

   balloon  On September 15, 1910, an unidentified male aeronaut ascended in a balloon from the Willimantic Fair that was being sponsored by the Horseshoe Park Agricultural Association.  A gusty wind was blowing at the time, and once aloft the balloon caught fire.  As flames spread rapidly, the aeronaut was forced to jump, grabbing with him three parachutes, one of which was also on fire.  The second parachute didn’t open properly, and there evidently wasn’t time to deploy the third.  The man plunged into the Willimantic River wrenching his back, but otherwise suffered only minor injuries and was able to swim to shore and walk back to the fair.    

     Source: Norwich Bulletin, “Willimantic Fair” – “Aeronaut Falls Into River”, September 16, 1910

West Haven, CT – August 17, 1907

West Haven, Connecticut – August 17, 1907

Updated February 7, 2018

 

    balloon On August 17, 1907, Theodore French, a young aeronaut from New Haven, Connecticut, was scheduled to give a parachute performance at Savin Rock in West Haven.  Three weeks earlier, he’d accepted a dare to go up in a balloon and be shot out of a seven-foot long tin “cannon”, and parachute to the ground.  On that occasion he landed safely.  On this day the performance was to be repeated, but with a slight change.  This time, the cannon would drop away from the balloon, it’s descent slowed by a parachute.  Then, as the cannon floated towards the ground, French would be shoot out of it, and land via use of a second parachute attached to his body.   

     When the balloon had reached a height of about 2,600 feet  the cannon was cut loose, and reportedly “swung clumsily” before French was discharged.  Once free of the cannon, French’s parachute failed to open, and he plummeted downward landing on the roof of a nearby piano factory and was killed instantly.  The cannon came down a few feet away.

     It was reported that Theodore’s father, Robert French, was the Chief of Police in New Haven, Connecticut.   Some sources put Theodore’s age at 19, others at 20.

     Sources:

     Topeka State Journal, “He Drops To Death”, August 19, 1907

     (A London England Newspaper) The Age, “Aeronaut Killed – Parachute Fails To Open” August 21, 1907

     Taranaki Herald, “Aeronaut Killed – Failure Of A Parachute”, August 20, 1907

     Evening Post, “Dashed To Pieces – Fate Of Aeronaut”, August 20, 1907, Page 7

     New York Times, “Half-Mile Fall From Sky Kills Boy”, August 18, 1907. 

 

 

New Britain, CT – April 29, 1871

New Britain, Connecticut – April 29, 1871 

   balloon  On April 29, 1871, Professor J. W. Hayden, an aeronaut with the Stone & Murray Circus, was giving a balloon exhibition in New Britain.  (Hayden was often advertised as having made 10,000 balloon ascensions. )

     On this particular day, the balloon with Hayden inside rose to an altitude of 1,000 feet and suddenly burst.  The escaping gas caused a rapid fall and when the basket hit the ground Hayden suffered a broken leg.   

     Sources:

     New Orleans Republican, (News item, no headline) May 4, 1871, Page 4.

     Cambridge Chronicle, Circus Advertisement, June 3, 1871

    

    

    

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