Grateful American® Foundation

Who is the first US aeronaut to fly a balloon?

September 9th

1835_CharlesFDurant_balloon_AmericanMagazine_v1_BostonSeptember 9, 1830 — Charles Durant is the first US aeronaut to fly a balloon. He flew about 25 miles — off from Castle Garden in New York City and landed in Perth Amboy, New Jersey — in three hours.

Durant dressed up for the occasion, wearing a top hat and tails. From the air, he dropped copies of poems praising the joys of flight.

According to Writersalmanac: “Americans were late to embrace hot-air balloons. The first manned balloon ride had taken place in Paris in 1783 — almost 50 years before Durant’s flight. Within a year of the Paris flight, a group had crossed the English Channel. The first flight in America actually occurred in 1793, and it was observed by a crowd that included President Washington; but the aeronaut was French, and despite a number of fundraising schemes, he was unable to pay off the debt from his flight, and he returned to France.”

Historians tell us that when Durant took off from Manhattan in 1830, ballooning seemed new and exciting to Americans. A huge crowd gathered to watch.

The New York Post reported: “The spectacle drew many persons to the Battery, which was literally covered with an immense multitude of every age, sex, condition and color, whose faces were all turned upwards. It is estimated that upwards of twenty thousand persons were collected to see a man risk his neck for their amusement and for their money.”

Sources: writersalmanaccivilwarsignalsnyctimetravelerwikimedia


Words of Wisdom

Here burst upon my sight one of the most imposing views I have ever beheld. Call it majestic, splendid, or sublime, — invoke a Shakespeare's mind to describe, or a painter's to portray it, — they, and even thought must fail to conceive the rich downy softness and white fleecy accumulation of clouds piled in waves as far as the eye could reach, covering the earth, and closing to my sight the land, water, and everything, animate or inanimate, that I had so long and often viewed with delight.

Above me nothing but a clear, cerulean expanse, — the golden sun-beams spreading over the vast ocean of clouds, and extending through immensity of space where sight is bounded, and from whence even thought returns, unable to traverse the confines of the vast field beyond. Here was a scene sufficient for the writer to fill volumes, and the painter to exhaust his skill, in trying to delineate the infinitely delicate and mellow tints reaching to boundless extent.

— Charles Durant, the first American aeronaut to fly a hot-air balloon, September 9, 1830

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