The Birth of the Balloon

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

 

Gift of the Estate of Constance Morss Fiske in memory of Gardiner H. Fiske

Your Search Results (1 to 12 of 22)

  • Balloon Park The Only Enterprise of This Kind in America
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Pilot: Jules Gourier
    Publisher: Shober & Carqueville
    Date: 1892
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Balloon Poster Wall
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lynch.
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Program of the Canastota Fair
    Country of Origin: United States of America
    Credit Line: Auction House: Valhalla Enterprises
    Date: September 25-28, 1883
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Tivoli PA Ext Aordinaire Grade Fete A laquelle assisteront Les Osages
    Country of Origin: France
    Pilot: Jules-Francois Dupuis-Delcourt, 1802-1864
    Other: The Osages
    Credit Line: Gift of Harry F. Guggenheim
    Date: 1827
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Aerial Voyages Over London
    Country of Origin: United Kingdom
    Other: Henri Giffard, 1825-1882
    Credit Line: Gift of Bella C. Landauer
    Date: May 1, 1869-May 28, 1869
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Descente d'Absalon
    Country of Origin: Netherlands
    Publisher: Faddegon & Co.
    Other: Miss Stena
    Credit Line: Donor: Found in collection. Donor unknown at this time. Found on NASM premises
    Date: 1885
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Les Mysteres de l'Ete
    Country of Origin: France
    Artist: Eugene Emmanuel Amaury-Duval
    Date: June 8-14, 1879
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Flip-Flap
    Country of Origin: Italy
    Date: circa 1911
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Zooligischen Garten
    Country of Origin: Germany
    Other: Kathchen Paulus, 1868-1935
    Date: June 21, 1896
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • 2nd Pochta
    Country of Origin: Russia
    Pilot: Alexander Shperling
    Date: August 30, 1875
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Grands Ballons de Nice
    Country of Origin: France
    Pilot: Eugene Godard, 1827-1890
    Date: 1884
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality
  • Ballon Captif
    Country of Origin: France
    Type: ART-Posters, Original Art Quality