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Sale 2486 Lot 227
(AVIATION.) Allen, James. Letter by an important early aeronaut offering to make a balloon ascension at a fair. Autograph Letter Signed to George B. Barrows (of Fryeburg, ME?). 2 pages, 8 x 5 inches, on one folding sheet; folds, minimal wear. Providence, RI, 17 September 1861
Estimate $800 - 1,200
James Allen (1824-1897), a Rhode Island native, was an important early American balloonist. He made approximately 400 ascensions from 1856 onward, made battlefield ascensions to aid the Union cause during the Civil War, survived into his seventies (unusual for this field), and was later inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. He wrote this letter in response to a request to appear at an agricultural fair, apparently in Maine: "I propose to make an ascension for you any day during your fair with a balloon 16,000 cubic feet capacity, capable of taking up one or more persons for the moderate sum of two hundred dollars . . . exclusive of the gas. The aerial ship that I propose to use on this occasion is a new linnen one, with its name Constitution on the equator, and otherwise ornamented to suit the times. As usual I will let off a number of small pilot balloon during the inflation of the large one. . . . Have made many ascensions for Agl. Socy's, and their receipts the third day, the day of the ascension, exceeded the two previous days twelve hundred dollars. . . . A balloon ascension tends to draw a larger concourse of people than any other exhibition."