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The Tissandier Collection: Aëronauts, Balloons & Lighter-than-Air Flight

Posted by Laurie Frost on July 16, 2009

It’s been a while since we’ve visited the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Online Special Collections, but today I’ve a special treat: a few selections from the Library’s 420 digitized images of the Tissandier Collection, which it purchased in 1930. Brothers Gaston and Albert Tissandier, 19th century French balloonists, collected balloon and other flying machine documents ranging from technical illustrations to cartoons. The Library describes the holdings:

The Tissandier Collection contains approximately 975 items documenting the early history of aeronautics with an emphasis on balloon flight in France and other European countries. Subjects include general and technical images of balloons, airships, and flying machines; portraits of famous balloonists; views of numerous ascensions, accidents, and world’s fairs; cartoons featuring balloon themes; pictorial and textual broadsides; and colorful ephemera and poster advertisements. There are also several hundred illustrations clipped from books and newspapers. The pictures, created by many different artists, span the years 1773 to 1910, with the bulk dating 1780-1890. The online portion of the collection consists of about 420 items, including all drawings and prints and selected photographs. Variant views and clippings from books and newspapers (generally non-pictorial) are not comprehensively represented online.

And on the images’ public domain status:

Publication and other forms of distribution: Permitted. There are no known restrictions on the use of images in this collection.

Credit Line:Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-DIG-ppmsca-02438]

 Here’s an early design from 1783 for a balloon equipped with sails [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division, ppmsca 02314]:02314r

Next, a 1790 design by Stoupy Bijou

for an airship navigational system project… consisting of five balloons fastened to a sixty foot mast, a rudder, two 12 foot long oars, and two polygonal vanes to control the rise and fall of the airship. (Source: A.G. Renstrom, LC staff, 1981-82.) [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division LC-DIG-ppmsca-02516]:02516r

Considerable progress had been achieved by the time of the 1878 ascent from Tuilleries, France, of  Henry Giffard’s balloon [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division LC-DIG-cph 3a14342]:3a14342r

During that same era, Albert Tissandier prepared these

five technical illustrations [that] show network of ropes and apparatus for securing multi-passenger platforms on captive balloons; arrangement of ropes for netting; and an elaborate hydrogen manufacturing and pumping station for inflating balloons [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division ppmsca-02510]:02510r

Albert may have also drawn this skyscape of a lunar halo and luminescent cross he observed with his brother during their balloon Zénith’s long distance flight from Paris to Arcachon in March, 1875. The illustration appeared in his brother Gaston’s book, Histoire de mes Ascensions(1878) [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division ppmsca-07435]:07435r
Balloon aëronauts Albert Tissandier (left) and Gaston Tissandier (right)  [Credit–Library of Congress, P&P Division ppmsca-02274]:


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