Sunday, July 5, 2009

Up in the air

I saw a great fireworks display last night, right from the deck on the side of the house, compliments of the next-door neighbor. Fireworks, as most schoolchildren know, originated in China in the 12th c. Remembering the "John Adams" miniseries, I wondered if Colonial Americans celebrated with fireworks. Yep, they certainly did! The earliest settlers had brought fireworks with them from England, and their use predates the Revolutionary War. They were used to mark the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 and, before that, John Adams foresaw their use to celebrate Independence Day, writing to his wife Abigail in 1776, "The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival....It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade...bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."
Also in the miniseries, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin witness a balloon ascension in Paris in 1788. This was the first free flight by humans, accomplished in an untethered 60,000-cubic-foot hot-air balloon designed by the Montgolfier Brothers. It rose aloft 3,000' and carried two people 9km in 23 minutes. I went on a hot-air balloon ride some years ago and most remember the surreal sound of dogs barking on the ground while I soared so far above them. For Christmas, I gave my sister and family a gift certificate for a hot-air balloon ride that they will redeem on my niece's birthday, so I hope to post some bird's-eye view photos in August!

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