A gas balloon belonging to John Steiner is made ready for an ascension in Erie, Pennsylvania, June 18, 1857. Steiner emigrated from Germany in 1853 and quickly established himself as a daring aeronaut - the picture shows the preparations for the flight that made him famous - the first attempt to fly to Canada across Lake Erie. Although flight conditions were unfavorable with high winds and an approaching storm, Steiner cast off. He later confessed to '... a dreary sense of loneliness' as he rose over Erie and watched 'man and his numerous works...receding rapidly away.' He recovered his spirits as a fair wind wafted him across Lake Erie and the cheers of the crews of ships he encountered floated up to him. But Steiner was soon engulfed by the storm - 'Oh! What a scene was transpiring around me! ... Every moment the surrounding masses of clouds were illuminated by flashes of lighting, succeeded by terrible crashes of thunder, in the very midst of which I seemed to be floating, and my excited imagination led me to fancy that I would feel my frail car quiver at every shock.' Almost within sight of Long Point, Ontario, the winds turned contrary and blew the balloon back across the lake towards Buffalo. Realizing that he would not reach the shore by nightfall, Steiner descended in the path of the steamer Mary Stewart. But the winds blew the balloon past the steamer. A boat's crew from the steamer finally caught Steiner's drag rope and found themselves towed at high speed by the runaway balloon. Steiner finally jumped and was picked up by Mary Stewart's crew. He returned to Buffalo, mourning the loss of his $500 dollar balloon - it was found much later, in tatters, having successfully made it to Canada without its pilot. This image, a quarter-plate ambrotype made by an unknown photographer, is the earliest-known surviving photograph of an American flying machine.