Lets talk about the history!
The discovery of Hydrogen in 1766 by Henry Cavendish led to much discussion and forethought on how this lighter-than-air element could be used. Scientific letters and journals of the time proposed how man might fly with wings, smoke, or a gas. A popular parlor game using soapy water to create hydrogen-filled bubbles was all the rage. People were excited about the notion of flight and balloons.
Who would fly first and how? The French Academy of Sciences was convinced a balloon filled with gas could fly. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, two well-educated brothers, believed it was rising smoke or rarified-air that had the power to lift them. It was a race – a race that first lit the imaginations of scientists, innovators, and adventurers in France and England, then moved east across Europe and on to the United States of America!
History tells us that the Montgolfier brothers edged out their competition by mere days. Their first manned free flight using air heated by a smoky fire happened on November 21, 1783, but this was just the beginning. The western world had gone balloon crazy! The first flight using hydrogen was accomplished only days later on December 1, 1783 when Dr. Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert alighted from Jardin des Tuileries in Paris. As flights were being made in France, others were happening in Italy, England and other parts of Europe. Word spread across Europe that man had flown in a balloon and soon crossed the Atlantic to the United States.
Not even a year after the first hot air and gas balloon flights were made, another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, was making a name for himself performing gas balloon ascensions in France. In 1784 when audiences started to dwindle, he moved to England to ride the wave of popularity. He then traveled to Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and Austria.
Following the flights made by the Montgolfier Brothers and French Academy of Sciences, many in the United States began experimenting with small model balloons and dreamt of balloon flight. Peter Carnes and Dr. John Foulke each worked towards accomplishing the first flight in the United States, but fell short with either funding or accidents which prevented them from accomplishing their goals. Blanchard, also hoping to be the first to grace the skies of the New World, sailed to Philadelphia in 1792.
On January 9, 1793, Jean-Pierre Blanchard made the FIRST AIR VOYAGE IN AMERICA from Philadelphia, PA. He chose a walled prison yard for his launch site to protect his equipment from vandals and prying eyes that did not pay the subscription to witness his launch. At 10:09 AM, he ascended with a small black dog from the prison yard located at what is now Sixth and Walnut Streets, landing 46 minutes later on a plowed field in Deptford, New Jersey. The flight covered 15 miles and ascended to 5,812 ft. He conducted experiments during the flight and carried a passport from George Washington to whom he reported later that same evening. This was Blanchard’s 45th ascent. George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, James Monroe, Betsy Ross, and Thomas Jefferson all attended the event.