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The First Flight Out of Buffalo, 1847. A "Wise" Decision | Community Spirit

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The First Flight Out of Buffalo, 1847. A "Wise" Decision
The First Flight Out of Buffalo, 1847. A "Wise" Decision

   John Wise was The 19th century's, most successful and most famous aeronaut. “Coupled with his enthusiasm, generosity, and scientific curiosity, clearly marked him as the most distinguished and experienced of American aeronauts."   In the nineteenth century many ascensions were made just for the novelty of the event, but John Wise's approach was from a scientific perspective. Each ascension gave him a chance to conduct scientific investigations of the atmosphere, pneumatics and hydrostatics.  It also gave him the opportunity to develop a more advanced flying machine. Wise was the first to observe the "great river of air which always blows from west to east" in the higher regions of the atmosphere. Today we call this phenomenon the jet stream.  He also developed the ripcord safety mechanism, and in 1838 developed a balloon that would collapse into a parachute if deflated or ruptured in flight, testing It by rupturing his balloon at 13,000 ft.  and surviving the descent.  He promoted the advantages of balloon transportation. In 1843 he conceived a project for crossing the Atlantic Ocean and asked Congress to appropriate $15,000 for the project. Congress, however rejected the appropriation.  He is credited with the first U.S. airmail transportation in 1859.

   In 1847, John Wise brought his airship to Buffalo and made the first ever successful ascent from this City. It was also the first ever aerial observation of Niagara Falls and Buffalo.   This 1847 flight inaugaurated Buffalo's participation in aeronautical history. A second flight was made about a week later from the same location but ended quite differently than the first. Read that dramatic account following this story. 


Takes this opportunity of informing the Ladies and Gentlemen of this city and vicinity, that he will, at the request of numerous citizen, make his 62nd Grand Atmospheric Voyage, on  Saturday Afternoon on July 31, 1847  between 3 and 4 o'clock, from Morris's Garden corner of Main and Tupper Streets

     The Capacity of this enormous vessel is Sixty-Five Thousand Gallons, and it requires for one inflation of Hydrogen gas, one thousand eight hundred pounds of sulphuric acid; one thousand five hundred pounds of iron, and twelve thousand pounds of water.  The method of generating hydrogen gas by the decomposition of Water, is of itself, an interesting and mysterious process;  Fifty-Five Thousand Gallons of which will be made and introduced into the Balloon under the immediate eye of the spectator.  During the process of inflation, Mr. W. will be pleased to answer any inquires regarding the nature and Philosophy of the same.

  •    At 3 1/2 Mr. Wise will hitch his car to the Aerial Vessel, and after floating a few minutes between earth and air, by a single cord, will detach himself from Terra-firma and ascend to the Region of The Clouds!  Seats in the gallery affording a complete view of the whole operation, reserved for Ladies. Reserved seats 50 cents; circle 25 cents. Doors open from 12 p.m. to 6 o'clock p.m.
FIRE WORKS!   Commencing at 8 o'clock precisely
  •      Mr. Wise is expected to return from his ascension and give the audience an account of his excursion.  A good Band of Music will be in attendance during the afternoon and evening. Single tickets 25 cents.  One gentleman and two ladies, 50 cents.

Buffalo Morning Express - Monday August 2, 1847

    On Saturday afternoon, pursuant to notice, Mr. Wise made an ascension from this City.  The day was clear and pleasant although a stiff breeze was blowing from the south west, which it was feared by many anxious spectators on the outside of the Garden, would prevent the aerial voyage.  However at 1 o'clock,  the inflation commenced and the balloon filled much faster than the Garden, when at 4 o'clock precisely, when the word was given to "let her go" and Mr. Wise and his aerial craft rose quickly and most beautifully into the space above, amid the cheers of the multitude.  The wind carried the balloon to the northward and eastward in a rapid but most graceful manner and her progress was upward and onward until some fifteen minutes after leaving the Garden, she began to decline behind the higher lands at the north, and was out of sight.  

    The Ascension was made under disadvantage circumstances, but so perfect and so beautiful was it, as to settle in the minds of the people of Buffalo, a large concourse of whom honored the occasion with their presence on the outer side of the Garden----the fact that this aeronaut never fails. After remaining mid-air about 25 minutes, he made the earth again and landed at the pleasant Village of Williamsville. 

   According to John Wise's actual Log of the Flight, which follows, It wasn't pleasant OR easy...  And what was Man's first impression of Niagara Falls from the AIR? You may be surprised...

  • AERIAL LOGBOOK 62nd VOYAGE  July 31, 1847 -  "4 pm precisely, started with aerial ship "Rough and Ready" under ballast and brisk gale from the S.S.W.  Wind moving at the rate of a mile per minute...

Continued in the Buffalo History Gazette

After reading this story, be sure to catch the account of his second Buffalo Ascent which was  "A Slam Dunk,"  literally! 

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