SI Neg. 2002-20292. Date: na. Photo of unknown artist's rendition on a poster of Marie Madeleine Sophie (Armand) Blanchard's balloon ascension in Milan, Italy, Aug. 15, 1811. Blanchard became France's 1st female professional balloonist in order to continue her husband's ballooning legacy. Credit: unknown (Smithsonian Institution)

SI Neg. 2002-20292. Date: na.
Photo of unknown artist’s rendition on a poster of Marie Madeleine Sophie (Armand) Blanchard’s balloon ascension in Milan, Italy, Aug. 15, 1811. Blanchard became France’s 1st female professional balloonist in order to continue her husband’s ballooning legacy.
Credit: unknown (Smithsonian Institution)

… ballooning was not just the domain of scientists and emperors — it was the apparatus of adventure, and those willing to go aloft were often reckless showmen and women, willing to risk their lives to thrill an audience. Long before Amelia Earhart, female aeronauts were some of the most famous performers of their day, riding aloft in beautiful silk balloons loaded with fireworks to perform acrobatic tricks thousands of feet above the ground. Napoleon’s favorite daredevil was Sophie Blanchard. The young woman had learned the trade from her older balloonist husband, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, who died of a heart attack during a damaged balloon descent.
Sophie devised a special balloon for her ascents, which featured a tiny festooned gondola that could hardly fit one standing person. She would float above the crowd as if standing on air, fireworks trailing behind, often wearing a signature white dress with a colorfully plumed hat. During a nighttime display in 1819, one of Blanchard’s fireworks ignited her hydrogen balloon, causing her to fall to her death in front of a horrified crowd in Paris. –Michelle Legro

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a dare devil who dies during a stunt.

Journaling Prompt: What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?

Art Prompt: Hot air balloon stunt

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience the story of your favorite dare devil.

Photo Credit: public.resource.org on Flickr

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