The history of gas and wind-powered air travel is steeped in myth and legend, inspiring many a writer to create a story around the idea. The archive holds several text and moving image items related to airship travel, dirigibles, and hot air balloons:
Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail, a story of 2000 AD (1905): Many don’t consider Kipling one of the progenitors of science fiction writing, but writers like John W. Campbell have stated that he was “the first modern science fiction writer,” in that he began the science fiction literature tradition of exposition through the characters’ eyes. In Night Mail and in As Easy as ABC (1912), Kipling writes of a world controlled by the Aerial Board of Control, a massive Big Brother-esque organization that controls the world’s air travel and usurps the power of individual nation-states.
Jules Verne’s A Voyage in a Balloon (1852): Verne’s better-known balloon story was 1863’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, but Voyage was written more than 10 years before, and marks Verne’s first English-language publication.
Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer Abroad (c1910): This novel by Mark Twain was published in 1894. It features Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in a parody of Jules Verne-esque adventure stories. In the story, Tom, Huck, and Jim set sail to Africa in a futuristic hot air balloon, where they survive encounters with lions, robbers, and fleas to see some of the world’s greatest wonders, including the Pyramids and the Sphinx (info lifted from Wikipedia article)
Flying Machines past, present and future: A popular account of flying machines, dirigible balloons and aeroplanes (c1914):
Early accounts of the development of aerial travel technology in the early 20th century. If the text seems dry, keep flipping for incredible archival photos of early machines. Chapters include “Dirigible Balloons”, “Flying Machines”, “The Art of Flying,” and “Flying Machines of the Future.”
The romance of modern invention, containing interesting descriptions in non-technical language of wireless telegraphy, liquid air, modern artillery, submarines, dirigible torpedoes, solar motors, airships, etc., etc (1907) : Wow. The title pretty much sums this one up. Contains 25 illustrations (with index)
Journal of my forty-fifth ascension, being the first performed in America, on the ninth of January, 1793 (1918): Jean-Pierre Blanchard was a pioneer of aviation and ballooning, admired by many who followed his many balloon ascensions (including George Washington, from whom there is a transcribed letter in this book). Luckily he kept a journal (an early blog, if you will) so his followers could read about his exploits and adventures.
Castle and Pathe coverage of the Hindenberg explosion (1937): A popular item from the Prelinger Collection, the archive also contains an excerpt of this tragic moment composited with the infamous and highly emotional real time radio commentary by Herb Morrison.
Written by: Stephanie Sapienza