Friday, May 8, 2009

The Assawompsett Balloon

In mid June, 1857, an unusual phenomenon was witnessed over Long Pond and nearby Assawompsett, “this region of silver lakes”. “…As persons in Lakeville cast their eyes above, a beautiful Balloon was seen gracefully sailing through the air over Long Pond, some 600 feet high.” At 5.30 in the evening, the balloon landed in a tree on the farm of J. S. Hersey on the shore of Assawompsett Pond. “Being taken from its lodgement, it was found to be made of delicate material, of various colors, with cord attached. It had been inflated but the gas had mostly escaped."

Later it was determined that the balloon had been released by James Allen, “the aeronaut of Providence” on the same day on which it alighted in Lakeville. Earlier, “Mr. Allen, in joking with a lady of Lakeville, told her his intention was to visit her soon in a balloon. She warned him to beware of a certain orchard in the vicinity of her residence, as a dangerous place for alighting. It is a singular coincidence that his balloon actually came down near the spot which the lady warned him to avoid.”
Middleboro Gazette, June 19, 1857, page 2, and July 10, 1857, page 2.
Further information:
Frederick Stansbury Haydon, Military Ballooning During the Early Civil War (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
Untitled, nd., wet-plate albumen cabinet card photograph.
The cabinet card depicts aeronaut James Allen (in the rigging above) reenacting a wedding in a balloon on September 27, 1888, at the State Fair Grounds in Providence, R.I. (Smithsonian Institution, SI Neg. 2001-5327).


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