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In the years following the Montgolfier brothers’ first successful balloon flights in 1783 ‘balloonmania’ swept across Europe. One of the greatest promoters of this new form of transport was the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard. He made his first successful flight at Paris using a hydrogen filled balloon in March 1784. He then travelled around Europe demonstrating his balloons becoming the first to fly a balloon across the English Channel (accompanied by Dr. John Jeffries), as well the first to fly such devices in Belgium, Germany, Holland and Poland.

Blanchard then crossed the Atlantic and on 9th January 1793 he added to his records by making the first balloon flight in the United States. President George Washington observed Blanchard take to the air at around 10:10am from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania after having given the Frenchman a letter under his seal requiring that no US citizen hinder him. Also watching the launch were the future presidents John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. At 10:56am, Blanchard landed at Deptford in Gloucester County, New Jersey, where he soon attracted a crowd of bemused onlookers who were not only impressed by the manner of his arrival, but also by the President’s letter.

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