John and Charles Wise Ballooning Collection

John Wise (1808-1879), known to his contemporaries as the "Father of American ballooning", made his first balloon ascension in 1835, flying from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Haddenfield, New Jersey. During his long career, he was to make 446 free balloon ascensions in such craft as the Meteor, the United States, the Experiment, the Vesperus, and the Comet. In 1855, Wise flew 1,200 miles in 19 hours and 50 minutes in the Atlantic, setting a duration record that would stand until 1910. In the 1850s, Charles Wise, the aeronaut's son, joined him in his activities. In 1879, at the age of 71, John Wise made an ascension with passenger George Burr from St. Louis in the balloon Pathfinder; the balloon, Wise, and Burr were lost in Lake Michigan.