A Successful Launch


A reading from The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes:

“Vincent Lunardi used a Union Jack design on all his later balloons, and attracted increasingly large crowds to his launches. In 1785 he took his displays as far north as Edinburgh. But he often had trouble with crowd control, and rowdy disturbances became an important element in the balloon craze. It was dangerous to delay departure beyond the promised hour, even if the balloon was not sufficiently inflated or the wind was adverse. When the newspapers reported a successful launch, it often simply meant that the balloon had lifted off on time and no one in the crowd had been killed.”

“Lunardi’s reputation was badly damaged the following year, when on 23 August at Newcastle a young man, Ralph Heron, was caught in one of the restraining ropes, lifted some hundred feet into the air, and then fell to his death. The impact drove his legs into a flowerbed as far as his knees, and ruptured his internal organs, which burst out onto the ground. He was due to be married the next day.”

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