Ballooning - Friday, January 15, 2016

It must be part of the human condition to want to fly, since we tried to get up in the air long before the invention of the airplane.  Even before the zeppelin.  It was so important to us that people risked, and lost, their lives far too often in the effort to get there.  So, today in the blog, we are going to honor both ballooning and the little balloons suspended above the Omrod Giant World of Miniatures.  There are literally millions of balloons hanging in the Music Room (and, by "literally millions" we mean maybe about twelve or thirteen).

So, ballooning.  The big year was 1783, the location was France.  The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne, famously sent a sheep, a rooster and a duck in the air on September 19th.  Prior to the Montgolfiers, balloon experiments had included hydrogen, which would work, but not until after the Montgolfier's success.  They filled their balloon with hot air, inspired by watching ash rise in fires, and before long, were ready for manned flights.  King Louis XVIII had wanted condemned criminals to man the balloon, but brave souls had the honor on October 19th.  They traveled five miles - they could have gone farther, but the floating, burning ash caused concern that their balloon might catch fire.  They landed safely in a field, likely terrifying its unexpected owners.  Within two years, a balloon traveled over the English Channel, piloted by a man named Jean-Pierre Blanchard.  Blanchard would also have the distinction of being the first balloonist in America, taking off from the yard of the Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia, on January 10th, 1793.  This balloon was filled with hydrogen, and it traveled to Gloucester County, New Jersey.

By the dawn of the 19th century, air travel was somewhat conventional, if not exactly practical. Balloonists had minimal control over where they were going, but they got some great views. Check in yesterday to learn about the next great innovation in air travel!
QUESTION:  When was the first time balloons were used during wartime, for one army to get an overview of enemy movements on the battlefield?
A)  The Richmond Campaign, American Civil War, 1863
B)  Napoleonic Wars, Battle of Waterloo, 1815
C)  Battle of Midway, World War II, 1943
D)  Battle of Fleurus, French Revolutionary Wars, 1794

BREAKING AWAY.  Lots of Americans are surprised to learn that Vermont, deep in the heart of New England, was NOT one of the original thirteen colonies.  It's true.  In fact, it was disputed land.  The royal governor (during colonial times) of New Hampshire claimed the land and happily sold it to ambitious people, and the royal governor of New York also claimed and sold it.  Chaos ensued.  Then, the Green Mountain Boys started a semi-violent movement within the disputed land to break completely free from both New Hampshire and New York.  When the American Revolution began, they saw their chance.  Everyone was fighting each other already, so they made it official and, on this day in 1777, declared themselves New Connecticut, their own country! They changed their name to Vermont (meaning "Green Mountain" in French) and remained their own republic until 1791, when they became the fourteenth state in the new United States.

QUOTE:  What is success?  It is a toy balloon among children armed with pins. - Gene Fowler

ANSWER:  D)  Battle of Fleurus, French Revolutionary Wars, 1794.  And C) was a trick answer - everyone knows the Battle of Midway was in 1942.  And by then they had airplanes, so it would have been a very silly answer to select.