Night ballooning, Paris, 1870.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. Hot air balloons were the only means of communication and escape during the the siege of the city in the Franco-Prusian War (1870-1871). Railway stations which were lying idle became balloon factories. Balloons carried pasengers and mail out of the city. Carrier pigeons were taken too, so that they could be used for inward post. The photographer Nadar (1820-1910) used a balloon to shower Prusian troops with tracts accusing them of barbarism. On 8 October 1870, Leon Gambetta (1838-1882) who had led the Parisian republicans to proclaim the establishment of the Third Republic three days after Napoleon III's capture, flew by balloon to Tours to rally support. Night-flying was used to avoid sightings by enemies.