“a Globe of Montgolfiers went up … “

I can’t help myself. I must include additional posts on Sarah Jay that give further credence to to my view that she is one of the most interesting and intelligent wives of the Founding Fathers.

Next Tuesday, June 4, will be the 230th anniversary of the first public demonstration of a hot air balloon conceived and constructed by the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Etienne. In September of 1783, a balloon carrying a duck, a rooster, and a sheep rose into the air before Louis XVI and his court at Versailles. Sarah Jay was in Paris at this time with her husband who, along with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Henry Laurens, had been negotiating the terms of the treaty of peace with the British. After the Preliminary Articles were completed, John went to Bath, England, seeking relief from his various physical ailments. Remaining in Paris with their two little girls, Sarah witnessed two balloon ascents: a manned, untethered flight of the Montgolfier hot air balloon and another on December 1, by a competitor Jacques Charles, filled with inflammable hydrogen. She informed John on November 27 that

a Globe of Montgolfiers went up the other day from the Muette* with two persons in a gallery that was fix’d to it: after the cord that detain’d it was cut, it asscended three thousand feet high, & the gentlemen that were attach’d to it, observing at one time that it descended rather to rapidly, threw into it [a fire] a little more straw, & then it again mounted, by which means they remained in the air ‘till they had gone from the place from whence they set out to Paris, pass’d over the whole City, ‘till at length concluding they had stay’d as long as the experiment required, suffered themselves to descend gradually near the Boulevards, without having expended more than a third part of the straw they had provided. Next Saturday Monsr. Charles will entertain the public wh. a like experiment of a Globe fill’d wh. inflammable Air.
Don’t you begin to think of taking yr. passage next Spring in a Ballon?

* Royal Cháteau La Muette on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne.

The quoted passage appears in the Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, page 154. The illustration is a model of the Montgolfier balloon at the Science Museum in London.

posted May 30th, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad, Amusements, Paris


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