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'Oh, the Humanity!' Death from the Skies!

It had to happen. Lighter-than-air flight (that is, hot-air and hydrogen balloon flight) is an exciting new field of science with many unanswered questions. For example, they have no clear idea WHAT makes these balloons float. (FYI, they float because the lighter gases trapped within the balloon's envelope rise above the denser atmosphere taking the entire contraption with them.) It's science! And it's flashy, so one can win the admiration of one's fellows and the girls love it. In January, a hydrogen balloon crosses the English Channel carrying John Jeffries, an American taking barometric and temperature measurements. With so many flights, a few balloons were bound to crash with ugly results. Dr. Bleakly launches from the Tullamore barracks yard in Ireland. He hits a chimney, dragging sparks and flame across the rooftops of the town. Most buildings have slate roofs, but along Barracks street the roofs are thatch. 100 homes and shops are lost. This is the first air flight disaster. The first air flight deaths occur later this year when a hybrid hydrogen/hot-air balloon plummets 1,500 feet, killing two. Thankfully the balloon did NOT burst into flame. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
On May 6th, 1937 the German passenger zeppelin, Hindenburg, was docking at Lakehurst, New Jersey when it suddenly burst into flames. The nose of the ship tilted up, causing the flames to climb through its interior like a chimney. "Oh, the humanity!" shouted the radio announcer. Within 30 seconds, nothing was left but ash and a broken metal frame. Amazingly, out of the 97 people on board, 62 survived. 1 person on the ground crew was killed. Theories abound as to what caused the sudden and rapid destruction. It might have been a lighting strike, a gas leak, or the combustible paint used on the exterior of the zeppelin. The TV show Mythbusters tested the "combustible paint" theory with some spectacular results. (Don't ever invite the Mythbusters to your home unless your insurance is paid up.) Hydrogen burns, so why weren't they using helium instead? At the time, helium was a scarce commodity, available only in the USA which was maintaining an export ban on helium. The Germans switched to hydrogen which they could produce themselves. [7] [8] [9]

George Washington is Busted

Apparently the key to fame is to have a proper sculpture made. Thomas Jefferson recommends a famous French sculptor to George Washington. George Washington (now retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon) has the artist make clay impressions and molds of his head so that a bust can be sculpted of his likeness. The same impressions will be used to create other sculptures and statues of Washington's likeness. It is said that the most lasting statements are written in stone. [10]

"Men of real talents in Arms have commonly approved themselves patrons of the liberal arts [...] In some instances by acting reciprocally, heroes have made poets, and poets heroes." -- George Washington in a letter to LaFayette, 1788. [11]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Washington was seeking fame but not reality star fame, nor viral video fame. Washington, Adams and Jefferson were seeking fame that lasted centuries. Washington organized his life to fit the model of the ancient Greeks and Romans. After the war, he retired to his plantation "to sit in the shade of my vine and my fig tree." The Roman statesman Cincinnatus (sin-sin-NAT-tus) was appointed dictator in order to defeat the enemies of the state, but once the task was complete, he returned to his farm. Of course, that whole model was shattered when Washington became President of the United States, but he managed to release control after that too. It was an amazing feat for the time, and not a bad feat even today. [12] [13]

And in Other News

  • The Continental Navy is disbanded. The Congress is out of money. The Continental Navy Ship Alliance is auctioned off for $26,0000. What have we done? [14]
  • Digitalis is discovered. The foxgloves plant helps with congestive heart failure. (I am not a physician. Just so you know.) [15] [16]
  • The Times of London newspaper is established. It is called something else now, but in 1788 it will change its name to The Times. [17]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1785, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. The Tullamore Balloon Fire - First Air Disaster in History. Offaly History (September 1, 2007). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “The fire was caused when an air balloon collided with the barrack chimney, and taking fire, it in turn set fire to the house of a Christopher Beck in Patrick Street. The location of this house was possibly where Talbot’s shop and the Record & Tape Centre are located as one William Beck had a lease of this house in 1786. The balloon was launched from a Dr. Bleakly’s yard. The location is not known, but I believe it may have been to the rere of the old military barracks (i.e. behind the present Garda Station) and possibly in the vicinity of Hugh Lynch’s or the Lantern public house. Dr. Blakely’s house was used as the county infirmary until 1788 and was probably away from the town centre for reasons of public health.”
  2. Jean-François Pilatre de Rozier - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “The balloon suddenly deflated (without the envelope catching fire) and crashed near Wimereux in the Pas-de-Calais, from an estimated height of 450 m (1,500 feet). Both occupants were killed. Eight days later his former fiancée died, possibly having committed suicide. A commemorative obelisk was later erected at the site of the crash. The King had a medal struck, and gave his family a pension.”
  3. Rozière balloon - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “A Rozière balloon (or simply Rozière) is a type of hybrid balloon that has separate chambers for a non-heated lifting gas (such as hydrogen or helium) as well as a heated lifting gas (as used in a hot air balloon or Montgolfière). The design was created by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.”
  4. Massachusetts Banishment Act - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “The Massachusetts Banishment Act, officially named the 'Banishment Act of the State of Massachusetts', was a bill of attainder passed in September 1778 'to prevent the return to this state of certain persons therein named and others who have left this state or either of the United States, and joined the enemies thereof.' Over 300 people, including many former officials of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, were listed in the act.”
  5. John Jeffries - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Jeffries is also credited with being among America's first weather observers. He began taking daily weather measurements in 1774 in Boston, as well as taking weather observations in a balloon over London in 1784. National Weatherperson's Day is celebrated in his honor on 5 February, his birthday.”
  6. February 5 is National Weatherperson's Day. National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, Chicago (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Sunday February 5 is National Weatherperson's Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries in 1745. Jeffries, a Boston physician and one of America's first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774. He took the first balloon weather observation over London in 1784. He carried a thermometer, a barometer, and a hygrometer to the height of 9,000 feet.”
  7. [HQ] 1937 Hindenburg Explosion In Colour With Herbert Morrison's Commentary. YouTube (May 6, 1937). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Original colour footage mixed with Herb's commentary. DISCLAIMER Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for 'fair use' for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”
  8. Herbert Morrison (announcer) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Morrison's description began routinely but changed instantly as the airship burst into flames:”
  9. LZ 129 Hindenburg - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Despite a U.S. ban on the export of helium under the Helium Control Act of 1927, the Germans designed the airship to use the far safer gas in the belief that they could convince the US government to license its export. When the designers learned that the National Munitions Control Board would refuse to lift the export ban, they were forced to re-engineer the Hindenburg to use hydrogen for lift.”
  10. Ellis, Joseph J.. His Excellency: George Washington. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 1400040310. “In the fall of 1785 he welcomed Jean-Antoine Houdon, France's most distinguished sculptor, who had traveled all the way from Paris at Jefferson's request to make a life mask for his classic bust and statue.” 
  11. Letter to Marquis de LaFayette. Teaching American History (May 28, 1788). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “Mr. Barlow is considered by those who are good Judges to be a genius of the first magnitude; and to be one of those Bards who hold the keys of the gate by which Patriots, Sages and Heroes are admitted to immortality. Such are your Antient Bards who are both the priest and door-keepers to the temple of fame. And these, my dear Marquis, are no vulgar functions. Men of real talents in Arms have commonly approved themselves patrons of the liberal arts and friends to the poets of their own as well as former times. In some instances by acting reciprocally, heroes have made poets, and poets heroes.”
  12. Quotes by Washington. chnm.gmu.edu (2002). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “'As for myself I am now seated in the shade of my Vine and Fig tree, and altho' I look with regret on many transactions which do not comport with my ideas, I shall, notwithstanding 'view them in the calm lights of mild philosophy', persuaded, if any great crisis should occur, to require it, that the good sense and Spirit of the Major part of the people of this country, will direct them properly.' [to CC Pinckney, June 24, 1797]”
  13. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “His immediate resignation of his near-absolute authority with the end of the crisis has often been cited as an example of outstanding leadership, service to the greater good, civic virtue, lack of personal ambition, and modesty. As a result, he has inspired a number of organizations and other entities, many of which are named in his honor.”
  14. Continental Navy - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 12 May 2016. “The frigate Alliance, which had fired the final shots of the American Revolutionary War, was also the last ship in the Navy. A faction within Congress wanted to keep her but the new nation did not have the funds to keep her in service, and she was auctioned off for $26,000.”
  15. Digitalis - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 29 February 2016. “A group of medicines extracted from foxglove plants are called digitalin.”
  16. William Withering - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 29 February 2016. “In 1785, Withering published An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses, which contained reports on clinical trials and notes on digitalis's effects and toxicity.”
  17. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 364-365. 

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