Last week, our intern Megan found three posters advertising balloon voyages amongst the items in the John P. Cushing World War I Poster Collection. Why were broadsides advertising nineteenth century balloon ascensions mixed-in with a collection of World War I posters? Are these three balloon voyages somehow connected? We may never know. What we do know is that we can now happily add these to the other early aeronautical items held by Amherst Archives and Special Collections.
The posters advertise two events: an ascension on October 8, 1856 by Samuel A. King and his student James Allen from Providence, RI, and Thomas Kirkby’s voyage from Louisville, KY, on April 6, 1835.
We don’t know anything specific about these events, other than what is contained in the text of the posters. Both King and Kirkby were celebrated aeronauts in the United States. King was well known for his meteorological balloon experiments, and his flights in New England and New York, many of which made use of the balloon pictured here, “The Queen of the Air.”
Our third mysterious poster contains no text. The only clues to what ballooning event this engraving depicts are the seals, letters and symbols on the balloon, and the artist attribution “MARY.” Have any information about any of these balloons, their pilots, or the ascensions? Let us know!
Among the other aeronautical materials in our collections is the first “air mail” letter, dropped by Dr. John Jeffries of Boston from a balloon over England on November 30, 1784 (see the earlier blog post on this item). Jeffries’ Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Doctor Jeffries with Mons. Blanchard; With Meteorological Observations and Remarks… is also here, as are important ballooning narratives by John Wise (1808-1879), and Vincent Lunardi (1759-1806), and Monk Mason’s Aeronautica; or, Sketches illustrative of the theory and practice of aerostation… The records of Amherst College’s Aero Club, founded in 1909 as one of the earliest college aeronautics groups, are in the Clubs and Societies Collection.