Figurative Representation of the Late Catastrophe

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Print, Lithograph on Paper, Hand Colored, FIGURATIVE REPRESENTATION OF THE LATE CATASTROPHE

    Hand-colored lithograph print depicting Robert Cocking plunging to earth in his failed parachute, saying, "Now unless some friendly dunghill receives me, I am lost forever." The print depicts the events of July 24, 1837, when Charles Green and his Nassau balloon carried Robert Cocking aloft to test his new parachute design. Cocking attended a demonstration by Andrè Jacque Garnerin in 1802, and had never forgotten how the parachute oscillated wildly back and forth on its way to the ground. After considering the problem for over three decades, the 61-year old Cocking decided that a parachute in the shape of an inverted umbrella would be more stable. His finished product featured three metal hoops to maintain the shape of the fabric and weighed some 223 pounds. Having persuaded the proprietors of the Vauxhall Garden that the initial test of his device would be just the thing to draw a large crowd into their pleasure ground, Cocking also obtained permission to be carried to altitude dangling beneath the famed Nassau balloon, still the property of the Garden. After protesting this dangerous enterprise, Green finally agreed to make the flight, but insisted that Cocking cut himself loose from the balloon. When the time came, the aeronaut and his friend Edward Spencer, the founder of a British balloon manufacturing dynasty, shouted down to Cocking, dangling below, that they were at 5,000 feet and could rise no higher. Free of the weight of Cocking and his parachute, the Royal Nassau shot up to an altitude of over 15,000 feet. The two aeronauts, who had foreseen this possibility, breathed oxygen through tubes until they could descend. The unfortunate Cocking fell straight to earth trailing fabric streamers, struck the ground, and died the following day. Green made a number of ascents to raise money for Cocking's widow. Why the balloon is identified as "Middlesex" is unclear,

    1 of 3

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Print, Lithograph on Paper, Hand Colored, FIGURATIVE REPRESENTATION OF THE LATE CATASTROPHE

    Hand-colored lithograph print depicting Robert Cocking plunging to earth in his failed parachute, saying, "Now unless some friendly dunghill receives me, I am lost forever." The print depicts the events of July 24, 1837, when Charles Green and his Nassau balloon carried Robert Cocking aloft to test his new parachute design. Cocking attended a demonstration by Andrè Jacque Garnerin in 1802, and had never forgotten how the parachute oscillated wildly back and forth on its way to the ground. After considering the problem for over three decades, the 61-year old Cocking decided that a parachute in the shape of an inverted umbrella would be more stable. His finished product featured three metal hoops to maintain the shape of the fabric and weighed some 223 pounds. Having persuaded the proprietors of the Vauxhall Garden that the initial test of his device would be just the thing to draw a large crowd into their pleasure ground, Cocking also obtained permission to be carried to altitude dangling beneath the famed Nassau balloon, still the property of the Garden. After protesting this dangerous enterprise, Green finally agreed to make the flight, but insisted that Cocking cut himself loose from the balloon. When the time came, the aeronaut and his friend Edward Spencer, the founder of a British balloon manufacturing dynasty, shouted down to Cocking, dangling below, that they were at 5,000 feet and could rise no higher. Free of the weight of Cocking and his parachute, the Royal Nassau shot up to an altitude of over 15,000 feet. The two aeronauts, who had foreseen this possibility, breathed oxygen through tubes until they could descend. The unfortunate Cocking fell straight to earth trailing fabric streamers, struck the ground, and died the following day. Green made a number of ascents to raise money for Cocking's widow. Why the balloon is identified as "Middlesex" is unclear,

    2 of 3

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

    View Manifest

    View in Mirador Viewer

    Print, Lithograph on Paper, Hand Colored, FIGURATIVE REPRESENTATION OF THE LATE CATASTROPHE

    Hand-colored lithograph print depicting Robert Cocking plunging to earth in his failed parachute, saying, "Now unless some friendly dunghill receives me, I am lost forever." The print depicts the events of July 24, 1837, when Charles Green and his Nassau balloon carried Robert Cocking aloft to test his new parachute design. Cocking attended a demonstration by Andrè Jacque Garnerin in 1802, and had never forgotten how the parachute oscillated wildly back and forth on its way to the ground. After considering the problem for over three decades, the 61-year old Cocking decided that a parachute in the shape of an inverted umbrella would be more stable. His finished product featured three metal hoops to maintain the shape of the fabric and weighed some 223 pounds. Having persuaded the proprietors of the Vauxhall Garden that the initial test of his device would be just the thing to draw a large crowd into their pleasure ground, Cocking also obtained permission to be carried to altitude dangling beneath the famed Nassau balloon, still the property of the Garden. After protesting this dangerous enterprise, Green finally agreed to make the flight, but insisted that Cocking cut himself loose from the balloon. When the time came, the aeronaut and his friend Edward Spencer, the founder of a British balloon manufacturing dynasty, shouted down to Cocking, dangling below, that they were at 5,000 feet and could rise no higher. Free of the weight of Cocking and his parachute, the Royal Nassau shot up to an altitude of over 15,000 feet. The two aeronauts, who had foreseen this possibility, breathed oxygen through tubes until they could descend. The unfortunate Cocking fell straight to earth trailing fabric streamers, struck the ground, and died the following day. Green made a number of ascents to raise money for Cocking's widow. Why the balloon is identified as "Middlesex" is unclear,

    3 of 3

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

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