Answering the Call of Wings

La pensée s’élève, le souvenir demeure

Amidst the triumphs and glory of early aviation, the public experienced the dangers and risks to those bold enough to answer the call of wings.  The news carried word of great achievements as new names filled the skies – Montgolfier, Blanchard, Garnerin, and Jefferies.  Yet the papers also were witness death among those daring enough to take flight.

At the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, there are two sets of collecting cards from France that date to the mid-19th Century.  These cards depict the early history of ballooning in graphic terms, never shying away from publishing images of death and tragedy, nor of those who survived a new feat.  Published by Romanet & cie., imp. edit., the collecting cards are wonderful ephemera from a time long past when balloons and early aviation captured the imagination of mankind.  These are images of the chromolithographs from the Tissandier Collection, published between 1890 and 1900, depicting ballooning history from 1783 to 1883.

For a public that was still often illiterate, they provided memorable scenes of the new invention of the balloon.  Collectors cards were miniature vignettes that captured the action, excitement and danger of flight.  Great achievements are mixed with rescues and daring deeds.  The cards range from highlighting the first flight of the Montgolfiers at Annonay to a triumphant balloon launched in honor of the coronation of Napoléon.

One thing is sure, even if early aviation was dangerous stuff, it certainly was an exciting, sometimes short way to live your life.

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