On This Day in History: September 19

Up, Up and Away!

On September 19, 1783, the Montgolfier Brothers launched the first hot air balloon carrying passengers: a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The balloon was launched from the gardens of the Palace of Versailles and witnessed by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The flight lasted eight minutes and the balloon traveled nearly three miles before landing safely. The three animals were unharmed.

Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman, tells the story of this flight with a few pages of text followed by a series of glorious, nearly wordless illustrations of the flight itself, from the perspective of ballooning’s “first brave passengers.” The adventures of the animals in flight include encounters with a flock of birds, a boy with a bow and arrow, laundry and a church steeple — these incidents are not part of the historical record but the author claims she “heard this part of the story from a duck, who heard it from a sheep, who heard it from a rooster a long, long time ago.”

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