“it was made of taffetas and in the form of an egg”

Sarah Livingston Jay saw the first ascent of the Montgolfier balloon (see this post) in Paris in 1783. The daughter of John and Abigail Adams, known as “Nabby”, visited France in 1784 and recorded her impression of a balloon ascent.

September 19. To-day we went to see the balloon; it was to ascend from the garden of the Tuileries; we had tickets at a crown a person to go in. We left our carriage outside and went in; the garden I had never been in before; it is very large, and in general, elegant. there were eight or ten thousand persons present. This people are more attentive to their amusements than any thing else; however, as we were upon the same errand, it is unjust to reflect upon others, whose curiosity was undoubtedly as well founded. We walked a little, took a view of the company, and approached the balloon; it was made of taffetas and in the form of an egg, if both ends were large; this is what contains the air; below it is a gallery where are the adventurers and the ballast. At eleven it was moved from the place of its standing among the trees to an open situation, and the cords, which were held by some of the greatest men in the kingdom, were cut; it mounted in the air. It was some time in sight, as they had intended making some experiments upon their machine. At six in the evening it descended at Bevre, fifty leagues from Paris. At two o’clock the same day there was a storm of rain, with thunder and lightning, but they were not affected by it.

The passage is from the Journal and Correspondence of Miss Adams, daughter of John Adams, Second President of the United States. Written in France and England, in 1785. Edited by her daughter (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1841), pages 18-19. It can be read online HERE.


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