Boston, MA – July 4, 1892

Boston, Massachusetts – July 4, 1892

 

      As part of some July 4th celebration activities, Boston city officials had organized a balloon ascension from the Boston Common. 

     Just after 4:00 p.m. Professor George Augustus Rogers of Malden, Maine, his assistant Thomas Fenton, and a reporter, Delos E. Goldsmith, stepped into the gondola of the huge balloon named the Governor Russell, and prepared for lift-off. 

     When the Governor Russell was released, it rose several hundred feet and began drifting towards Dorchester, but then the wind changed and carried it out over Boston Harbor. It continued on this course, steadily rising higher, and before long it became apparent the craft would be blown out to sea – a ballonist’s worst nightmare, for it meant almost certain death if rescue was not readily available.  As the balloon drifted towards Thompson’s Island, Rogers attempted to release some of the gas by opening the release valve, but had trouble doing so, and a lager tear in the fabric resulted.  As the gas rushed out, the balloon fell rapidly, crashing into the water and completely collapsing.  

     As the occupants floundered, Rogers sank beneath the waves and disappeared.  Fenton and Goldsmith managed to stay afloat and were rescued by men in a rowboat from Thompson’s Island.  A passing tugboat also gave assistance, and took both men to the mainland, but Fenton died before they reached shore from inhaling the poison gas from the balloon.  Goldsmith later recovered.     

     Professor Rogers was an experienced balloonist having made 112 ascensions since 1870.  Ironically, this wasn’t the professor’s first aviation accident.  On July 4, 1881, Rogers took off in a balloon from Point-of-Pines in Revere, Massachusetts, and arrived over Nahant, Mass. where the balloon fabric suddenly ripped, causing him to land upon some telephone wires.  It was reported that he received “injuries from which he never fully recovered.”   

     Rogers left behind a wife and family.  His body was recovered on July 15, found floating in the water near the L Street bathhouse. 

    Thomas Fenton, 34, was survived by his wife and six children. This was his first trip in a balloon.

     The accident left city officials wondering if balloon ascensions should be allowed in the future, with some going on record as stating any future requests would be denied. 

Sources:

New York Times, “Three Balloon Accidents”, July 5, 1892

New York Times, “The Boston Balloon Accident”, July 6, 1892

Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Burlington, VT.) “Aeronaut Rogers’ Body”, July 21, 1892

 

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.   

     Sources:

     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

 

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