Various [Charles Green etc]. Three Pieces of 19th Century Aeronautical Ephemera.
The Balloon. Single paper sheet handbill, 8” x 10” advertising the Coronation Balloon, with a small woodcut illustration of the balloon to the upper left, ascending from the Gas Company’s Station Yard at Stamford on the 1st July, 1825, under the auspices of Mr. Green. Very minor light spotting and wear, otherwise a sparkling survival. “The Filling of the Balloon will commence at TWELVE, and the Ascent will take Place at THREE o’Clock. The ROYAL SOUTH LINCOLN BAND, by the Permission of Captain Smith will attend on the Occasion.” Delightful. The Mr. Green in question is of course the luminous aeronaut Charles Green, who dominated British ballooning in the 19th century with his revolutionary use of coal gas as a lifting agent (hence the choice of gas yard as a venue one presumes), and the utilisation of trailing ropes for steering and stability purposes. He was the pilot of the Coronation Balloon and also of the probably rather more famous Nassau Balloon, that regularly made flights from Vauxhall and Cremorne Gardens for the edification and delight of the revellers. By the time he had retiredin the 1850’s he had made over 500 balloon trips, including at night and over into continental Europe. When one thinks of a 19th century British Aeronaut, one thinks of Mr. Green.
Cremorne Gardens, Monday August 3rd, 1846...Ascent of The Nassau Balloon. Single handbill sheet of paper, 5” x 7.5”, somewhat closely trimmed along the bottom edge affecting the printers imprint (...Steam Printing Company, 59 West Street, Smithfield. Actually a steam printing company address that produced a large number of aeronautical handbills and posters during the mid 19th century), otherwise a clean, sharp, well preserved example. Large woodcut of the balloon gondola to the centre of the handbill. The bill advertises a flight by the famous Mr. Green at Seven o’clock “at which hour Mr. Green will ascend into the regions of space, taking up with him a dozen ladies and gentlemen in the Car.” The rather dense text goes on to tout the gastronomic delights of Cremorne Gardens, and describes the whole affair as “A Crown Entertainment for ONE SHILLING.” Bargain.
The Sky Bicycle Air Ship, Invented by Prof. Carl Myers. Handbill sheet, 13” x 7”. Early 1890’s. Large illustration of the Sky Bicycle to the upper portion of the sheet. Paper browned and a little brittle, at some point the bill has been folded and split along the folds, before being repaired with archival tape, an unfortunate occurrence, there are three small areas of loss, interfering with but not hindering the understanding of, the text. There is also a small chip of loss to the middle lower edge. The exhibition flight of “...the only air vessel other than a balloon that is making public exhibitions out doors anywhere in the world today.” took place at the Bay State Bicycle Tournament on May 30th. The US bicycling community seem to have been strong supporters of Prof. Myers endeavours, The Wheelman periodical from 1893 saying this:
“Several successful ascensions have recently been made in central New York on Professor Myer's sky bicycle. It consists of a hydrogen gas spindle with a very sharp bow and stern, and almost globular amidships. The gas spindle exactly supports the rider in mid-air; sitting on a bicycle seat. Cranks at hands and feet combine to operate a screw sail in front which draws the whole machine forward. Be-
hind the rider is a frail cloth rudder which can be placed in any angle or upon any plane. On either side of the rider are outspread wings which serve as guiding or buoying surfaces. The weight of the rider
himself is another element in the guidance of the craft. If he leans backward the machine goes up, if forward it slides downward, leaning right or left turns the machine in that direction like a circling
bird. By placing one wing horizontal and one perpendicular, the course of the vessel is checked on one side and it spins around as on a pivot. All these manoeuvers were successfully carried out in mid-air,
at distances varying from an elevation of a few feet to one of hundreds of feet.”
Professor Myer’s was quite the aeronautical entrepreneur, founder of the Balloon Farm in Herkimer County NY, so called because the balloon envelopes were semi-inflated on his front lawn, making them look like giant, other worldly mushrooms, he was the inventor of a varnishing method for silk balloon material that enabled it to hold hydrogen more efficiently. This was a huge step forward for mass production, and Myers secure a contract or two with the US military supplying balloons of varying sizes and designs for military purposes. He also created a method intended to create rain for drought hit areas, by seeding the skies with high altitude balloon bombs, rigged to explode and filled with “oxy-hydrogen”, a side effect of the massive explosion theoretically being the creation of water through particle aggregation. Myers seems to have had an unstoppable appetite for invention, and puts one in mind of a character from Jules Verne, which he may well have been. A side note would be that the most skilled aeronaut in Myers company, and the undoubted master of the sky bicycle was his wife, Mary, who began as his lab assistant before blossoming into her true role as aero machine test pilot and demonstrating as “Carlotta, The Lady Aeronaut.” Scarce.