August 5, 2016
One of the most photographed structures on the famous Las Vegas Strip– The Paris Hotel– is not only a feast for the eyes, but also tells some of France’s most fabled stories in its architecture. For example, the illuminated hot air balloon that rises across from our dining room recounts one of mankind’s first forays into flight, which happened more than 200 years ago in France.
Two brothers, Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier, began experimenting with floating devices after noticing that heated air flowing into a paper bag at their manufacturing business caused the bag to rise. After several successful tests, they decided to make a public demonstration and before a crowd of dignitaries in Annonay in June 1783, they launched a balloon made of silk and lined with paper from the marketplace, which stayed aloft for 10 minutes and travelled more than a mile.
News of this amazing spectacle spread and a demonstration for the King Louis XVI was planned just a few months later. For this endeavor the brothers enlisted the help of a successful wallpaper designer, and constructed a balloon made of made of taffeta and coated with a varnish of alum for fireproofing. The balloon was decorated with golden flourishes, zodiac signs and suns symbolizing the king. Though the first launch carried no living cargo, this launch would include a basket containing a sheep, a duck and a rooster. All creatures lifted off safely, on September 19, 1783, traveling two miles in eight minutes, and being witnessed by a crowd of 130,000 people, including the king and Marie Antoinette.
The first manned flight would happen less than one month later, with a chemistry and physics teacher aboard, staying aloft (but tethered) for almost four minutes. For the first time ever, mankind had left the ground, and the balloon and Montgolfier brothers would symbolize the great adventure of air travel.