Period views: a view from above

There are times in life when we comfortably dream of the impossible, sleepy hours spent flying through the countryside on a sunny summer day above the brilliant blue sky. Such dreams are now a reality, but there was a time when such thoughts were only the result of a very active imagination. People just couldn’t fly like a bird hundreds of years ago, or could they?

Travel back in time with me to 1838, a very festive fall day on Main Street in Concord. A large crowd of spectators gathered on the grounds of the New Hampshire State House, hundreds of our ancestors with lofty dreams of flying the New Hampshire skies. All dreamers maybe, but they came together on this special day to see a man fly through the sky. A group attracted by the coverage provided by the local newspaper where the momentum grew day by day, people arrived on foot, in carriages and on horseback. They were farmers, laborers, factory workers. They were mothers and fathers, little boys and little girls. Expectations were certainly high, a stranger arrived in town in a horse-drawn wagon and was granted a hotel room at the Phoenix Hotel, he took a large crate in secret under canvas in his wagon. This stranger was here to share his dream of flight on September 21, 1838. A fascinating balloon ascent from the New Hampshire State House Plaza.

It was said that the first hot air balloon piloted in America was launched in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793 by French balloonist Jean Pierre Blanchard. He launched his hot air balloon from the local jail among a fanfare like no other. The Revolutionary War had just ended a decade before. How fitting to launch this modern marvel from the city that represented such American patriotism. George Washington himself stood in the crowd watching this remarkable event, men flying through the sky. People had sailed in a balloon prior to this event in 1793. It was in Paris, France, on a platform under a paper and silk hot-air balloon that balloonist Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent stoking a fire with heat rising in the balloon skirts. This Paris event was seen by many as the balloon soared 500 feet into the sky, traveling more than five miles and landing safely 25 minutes later. When the Parisian balloon landed, local farmers were indeed surprised and scared to see these men flying from the sky above.

As our parents’ great-grandparents stood in the grounds of the State House, a dapper gentleman emerged from the Phenix Hotel, dressed in a period costume with a leather cap and glasses on his head, he crossed the street towards the field with great fanfare. The audience was massive and the publicity appreciated by this early aeronaut. Louis A. Lauriat was a man before his time, a little adventurous, his quest for the sky was obvious. On this September day, a few unforeseen diversions were present. Louis planned his ascension to Concord where he would soar into the heavens accompanied by his young son. As he uncrated the crate balloon and positioned it to inflate with gas, delays were still encountered. Once ready, Loise A. Lauriat and her son positioned themselves in their basket below, greeting the crowd gathered at Concord, the atmosphere was very festive. The orchestra played the most patriotic songs, the children tasted ice cream while the men smoked their finest cigars. As the tape stopped and the ropes tying the balloon to the ground were ready to take off, a sudden movement occurred.

The crowd cheered as a local man ran to the basket under the ball. It was Mr. Amasa Powell from Concord, he jumped into the basket at the very last minute and soared into the sky at a height of 200 feet. Mr. Lauriat and his son landed a few miles south of the village and bid a friendly farewell to Mr. Powell.

This September balloon ascent to Concord allowed our ancestors to see Mr. Lauriat sailing at a height of 5,000 feet where he traveled to Canterbury. As he neared Shaker Village, the Shaker community gathered in amazement as Louis descended and tossed a rope to those bewildered observers below, instructing them to pull his balloon to the ground and anchor it in completely safe. The Shakers, a kindest bunch, obliged and anchored Louis and his son in their village in Canterbury and provided him with a meal and company while he rested with his son. Refreshed, Mr. Lauriat and his young son bid farewell to the Shaker community and rode through the skies again to Northfield where he finally landed sixteen miles from the New Hampshire State House where his journey ended. start.

When Lois and her son landed in Northfield, they packed their hot air balloon into a horse-drawn wagon and returned to Concord, stating that they had flown up to 11,000 feet, a distance of 16 miles.

Yes, there are definitely times in life when we dream of the impossible. I like to think that Mr. Louis A. Lauriat and his son inspired our ancestors by allowing them to witness this remarkable event so long ago. If you believe in something, there is no barrier that cannot be overcome, dare to dream of what could be.

Vintage Views is a local history column that explores Concord and its surrounding towns. It airs weekly in the Sunday Your Life section. The author is a historian and not a staff member of Le Moniteur.

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