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- About this Collection
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- Background and Scope
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Background and Scope
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 Tissandier brothers, Gaston and Albert, assembled the pictures from various sources. Gaston Tissandier (1843-1899) was a balloonist and science writer. Albert (1839-1906) was a balloonist and illustrator. The Library of Congress purchased their collection of books, manuscripts, and other items in 1930 from Maggs Brothers of London. The Prints & Photographs Division received the visual materials in 1954.
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.
The Tissandier Brothers' Aeronautical Work
The collection is rich in images of flights the Tissandier brothers participated in as well as flights they observed between 1865 and 1885. For example, Gaston Tissandier flew over enemy lines during the Siege of Paris in 1870, and Albert made drawings of several balloons that were used to carry passengers and supplies over enemy lines. While Gaston tested the limits of balloon ascension, Albert made drawings of natural phenomena in the upper atmosphere. As a team, the brothers developed a design for an electric powered airship in 1885.
[Gaston Tissandier, French balloonis...] Drawing, 1886.
Voyages ariens de M.M. Albert et Gaston Tissandier. Drawing by Albert Tissandier, 1870-1880
History of Balloon Flight and Early Balloonists
Historical prints document the first balloon ascensions in 1783, which demonstrated the feasability of lighter-than-air craft. Approximately 87 portrait prints depict aeronauts who promoted ballooning through public events (Vincent Lunardi, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and Marie-Madeleine-Sophie Armand Blanchard) or scientists and inventors who developed the technology (Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Nicholas Conte).
Exp[é]rience a[ë]rostatique faite Versailles le 19 sept. 1783. Etching, 1783.
M.S. Blanchard, celebre aeronauta,.... Lithograph, 1811.
Balloon Ascensions for the Public
By the late 1870s, captive balloons enabled the public to share the experience of flight by riding in the basket of a balloon tethered to the ground. In addition to posters and text broadsides announcing these events, the actual tickets used to board are included in the pictorial ephemera.
Grand ballon captif a vapeur de Mr. Henry Giffard... Wood engraving, 1879
Panorama de Paris ... Lithograph, 1878.
The challenge of powering a balloon led to the development of the airship, a generic term used for dirigibles, blimps and zeppelins. The collection contains approximately 30 design drawings for balloons with navigation devices such as sails and oars. A number of these drawings were submitted for patents. Also included are designs for flying machines and other examples of heavier-than-air craft.
Flugmaschine. Erfunden von Jacob Degen ... Engraving, ca. 1810.
Navire aérien, le poisson volant ... Lithograph by Camille Vert, 1859?
Humorous Images with Balloons
The collection includes numerous cartoons, caricatures, comic stories, and humorous drawings that illustrate the incorporation of balloon imagery into a wide variety of situations.
I volatori. Les messieurs qui volent. Lithograph, 1880.
Voyage a la lune. Lithograph, 1865-1870.