Celebrations in the Sky

Posted on Wed, February 8, 2017

A wave of enthusiasm for balloons swept across France in the weeks and months following its invention; a true balloonamania. The balloon craze was satirized in prints like the one below. From the beginning, a balloon ascent drew crowds of delighted spectators. During the 19th century no celebration, from a coronation to a bridge dedication, was complete without at least one balloon.

  • A man and woman talk about balloons.

    All the conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying. – Benjamin Franklin

    Etching, French, 18th century

  • Green field with people.

    Entrée de Mr. Blanchard et du Chevalier Lepinard, dans la ville de Lille, le 26 Août 1785, cinq jours après leur Ascension Aérostatique, dans la ville de Lille, le 26 Août1785. Dediée à Madame La Marquise de Vignacourt

    Louis Joseph Wateau, Engraving, French, 1785

  • Painting with red balloon in the distance.

    A crowd gathers to watch an ascent honoring the opening of Ipswich Park, Suffolk, England.

    Opening of Public Park at Ipswich by J. Sheppard
    Oil on panel, 1888

  • Men in red float from balloons.

    This late, 19th century Japanese print portrays the excitement surrounding a balloon ascension and parachute descent by the touring English aeronaut Percival Spencer.

    Kunisoda III, hand-colored woodcut, Japan, late 19th century

  • Boats in water next to bridge.

    Opening of the new London Bridge, August 1, 1831.

    Hand-colored etching, English, 1831

  • Fireworks go off.

    A fireworks display includes a balloon to celebrate peace on Bastille Day in Paris, July 14, 1801.

    Hand-colored etching, French, 1801

  • Many balloons in the air in front of City Hall.

    I8th century balloons over the Paris City Hall.

    Vue de L'Hotel de Ville. Prise de la Place.
    Engraving, French, 19th century

  • Balloon in the air with small crowd below.

    The daring Élisa Garnerin, a member of a pioneering French ballooning family, tops a balloon ascent from Lille, France, with a parachute descent to Earth. She made 30 parachute jumps between 1815 and 1836.

    Hand-colored etching, French, 19th century

  • Balloon floats over a building.

    Charles Ferson Durant ascends before a large Boston crowd, on September 13, 1834.

    Wood engraving, American, 19th century

  • Blue balloon floats above crowd.

    English aeronaut Charles Paternoster delights the crowd gathered for a celebration at London’s Vauxhall Garden, August 7, 1854.

    Colored etching, English, 19th century

Can you think of a modern craze that has had a similar impact?