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The Grand Experimental Air Voyage to the Atlantic Coast.


July/August 1859

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, July 2, 1859.

The Grand Experimental Air Voyage to the Atlantic Coast.





Yesterday afternoon, according to previous announcement, the first grand experimental air voyage took place from Washington Square. A portion of the Square had been fenced in for the occasion-permission having been granted for that purpose by the City Council.


About a year since, Mr. O. A. Gager, of Vermont, made a balloon ascension in company with Mr. John La Mountain, at Rochester, New York. Mr. Gager’s observations at the time suggested to him the idea of making a long voyage through the air. A study of the currents of the upper deep, led Mr. Gager to believe that advantage might be taken of certain currents by which a voyage could easily be made from west to east for any distance.

Mr. Gager proposed the plan to Mr. La Mountain, who readily acquiesced in the views of the former, and expressed confidence in the practicability of the project. Mr. Gager, being a man of means, agreed to furnish the baser portion of the capital, providing Mr. La Mountain, who was not so well off in worldly goods, would furnish his time and the mechanical skill necessary for the execution of the design. To this the latter readily consented, and in September last the parties set themselves to work in real earnest.


The balloon was made in Troy, New York, under the immediate supervision of Mr. La Mountain himself. That gentleman finished the balloon and coated it. The making of it alone required 6 months, at the average of 12 hours a day. The sewing occupied three hundred days, and was done by girls, who were selected from among the best seamstresses to be found. Twenty-two hundred and fifty yards of the very best Chinese oiled silk were used in its construction. It is one hundred and eighty feet in circumference, and six miles of cord used in the netting. It is the largest balloon that was ever manufactured, and Mr. Brooks’ balloon, which heretofore has been regarded as colossal, appeared but as a speck beside the enormous dimensions of its neighbor. The grand aerial ship was named the Atlantic, the name being painted upon the side in large letters.


At one o’clock the balloon was spread upon canvas stretched on the ground, and the process of inflation commenced. A large pipe conveyed the gas to the balloon from the gasometer near the Seventh street depot.

Sixty-five thousand feet of gas were contracted for, but only about fifty-five thousand feet were required.

The managers found that the buoyant capacity of the balloon was far beyond their anticipation. At three o’clock, the gas was turned off, but at six it was again applied, and the balloon was speedily furnished with the required quantity.


A patent Ingersoll life boat, sixteen feet long, was attached to the balloon, being some twenty-five feet suspended from the body of the balloon, itself, between which was also attached a willow basket of considerable size, intended as a greater means of safety for the voyagers, in case the balloon while descending should be forced by the wind to drag over the tops of trees or houses. Upon the boat, on either side, were two fan wheels. Mr. Gager informed us that with these fan wheels alone, the boat was propelled on the Hudson river at the rate of seven miles an hour, against both wind and tide. At a quarter past six o’clock, P.M., the willow car and the boat were attached to the balloon, and about a hundred and fifty men held on to the cords of the netting.


Quite a disturbance was occasioned by the impudence of an individual who, after being kindly addressed by Mr. Baker, and solicited not to disturb any of the things placed in what was called “the office,” at the southeast corner of the inclosure, waited until Mr. Baker’s back was turned, and then slyly abstracted a bottle of wine from a box, and uncorking it, proceeded to treat his friends. Mr. Baker had informed this individual that the wine was his property, and intended to be presented to Mr. Wise, when he should be ready to start.

Mr. Baker returned, and saw the stranger, who was a stout, stalwart man of forty, drinking his wine, and at once expressed his dissatisfaction. The stranger was perfectly cool. Mr. Baker became intensely excited, and at length provoked beyond endurance, attacked the stranger in a manner decidedly rough, and knocked him several feet towards the entrance gate. The stranger showed fight, but the crowd gathered between the belligerents. The ladies and children being in close proximity to the combatants, screeched and cried and added considerable, by their fright, to the general tumult.

In the grand row others became implicated, and a Mr. Sawyer was hurried outside of the inclosure, and, as a policeman informed us, was taken to the Calaboose. We were told that a knife was taken from him by the police. In the mean time, after the first encounter, the stranger had coolly walked off about his business and was seen no more.


At a quarter to seven o’clock Messrs. Wise, Gager, La Mountain and Hyde took their positions-the three latter in the boat, and the former in the willow car.

It was not announced that any but the first three mentioned would go up in the balloon, but those gentlemen had promised Mr. Hyde, the reporter for the Republican, that if circumstances would permit, he should be privileged to make the trip in their company. Finding, as before stated, that the buoyant capacity was sufficient, Mr. Hyde was informed he was at liberty to make the trip.

The party were plentifully supplied with water, wine, provisions, and plenty of warm clothes.

Mr. Hyde took quite a number of copies of the Anzeiger, the Republican, and the Democrat, which he intended distributing “along the road.” Mr. Wise was also furnished with some of the mammoth cards of our present Criminal Court Clerk, stating his desire for re-election, which Mr. Wise promised Young Kretchmar to distribute among the people where he should chance to alight. Mr. Wise, upon mounting the car, introduced Messrs. Gager and La Mountain to the assembled mass of people and stated that Mr. Gager had furnished the capital, Mr. La Mountain the mechanical skill, and now he expected to perform his part of the contract, and come in for a third of the glory.

The United States Express Company forwarded by this conveyance a bag containing letters and papers, weighing in all some eight or ten pounds. Upon the sack was printed the following:

T. B. Marsh, U.S. Express Co., No. 82 Broadway, N.Y.:–This bag is sent from St. Louis by the aerial ship Atlantic, July 1st. Please forward to destination from landing of balloon by express, as above directed.

T. W. Ford, Agent, St. Louis.

The crowd pressed so close around the car that Mr. Wise, fearing some accident, desired those who were not holding on to the rope to retire a short distance therefrom. This request, kindly made, was obeyed by no one, and Mr. Wise became excited. Rushing from the car he declared his intention of doing nothing unless the crowd would retire. Major Rawlings, however, accomplished the desired object, and Mr. Wise was soon in his place ready for the trip, and bidding good by to all, at six forty-five the crowd released their hold of the ropes, and the Atlantic glided magnificently into the upper air.


We must not neglect to say that this courteous and energetic caterer to the public taste, also ascended in his own balloon. Mr. Brooks cut short from his moorings about ten minutes after the other, and shot into the air at the rate of a hundred miles an hour. It took but a quarter of an hour to inflate his balloon with the required quantity of gas. Both balloons took a North-easterly course.


The experimentalists were favored with the most delightful weather. A clear sky bidding fair for like continuance through the whole night, gladdened the heart of the noble crew, who were about to embark on a dangerous voyage.

A delightful breeze blew steadily from the south-west during the whole day. Mr. Gager expressed considerable confidence in success, yet said he would not be surprised at failure. Hyde was fearful lest it might be thought necessary for the success of the voyage to land him at some place this side of New York or Baltimore.

It was told him that he could go no further than would be justifiable for the party to risk his weight in the car. However, we anticipate he will go as far as the rest.

We await with anxious interest intelligence from the daring navigators. What new discoveries will result from the success of this adventure, we can scarcely predict. It will be time enough to speculate when we hear the glad tidings of victory.


From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, July 4, 1859.

The Ballooners Landed after a Voyage of Twenty-four Hours.

By consulting the telegraphic advices in another column, our readers will satisfactorily learn the course and termination of the aerial voyage, which began on Friday evening, from Washington Square. It is principally grateful to remark that the voyageurs landed in safety. It will be seen that their course was, in the main, northeastwardly to the region of Niagara Falls, and thence nearly eastwardly to North Adams, the place of descent in Jefferson County, New York. The air ship seems to have floated for twenty-four hours! The course was more northwardly, and the average rate of speed less than appears to have been anticipated. It was hoped to descend on the Atlantic seaboard nearly East of St. Louis, soon after sunrise of the morning following the ascent. Still, the aeronauts distinctly announced that only an approximation of these results could be relied upon. The experiment is valuable, as indicating what may be done. It will, probably, be followed by other trials, the ultimate issue of which can scarcely yet be predicted.