An artist's impresion of balloons flying, 1783.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Coloured print entitled 'La Caise des Ballons' or 'Les Commis Effrayes', showing hydrogen balloons being released from a box to the alarm of several town clerks. The French Montgolfier brothers were the first to demonstrate hot-air ballooning in June 1783, but Jacques Charles (1746-1823) was close on their heels with his invention of the hydrogen balloon. He discovered that filling a balloon with the lifting gas hydrogen was a more efficient way to make a balloon rise. This image tells the story of a merchant who ordered a case full of balloons after hearing of Charles' experiments. Unfortunately, town clerks checking the delivery refused to believe the tale and opened the case, causing the balloons to shoot up into the sky. Published in the 'Journal de France' on 30 September 1783.