In the little French village of Annonay, to the south of Lyon, the Montgolfier family owned a paper factory. The brothers Etienne and Joseph de Montgolfier experimented a lot with paper and discovered that paper bags filled with air rose when the air was heated. This discovery led them to conclude that certain elements of the smoke made the paper bags rise. Only later did they realize that air achieves less density when heated and therefore becomes lighter.
Their discovery gave them the idea of constructing a large balloon out of paper. After many more experiments the Montgolfier brothers were able to present their discovery to the public for the first time on 4th June 1783. At that time the balloon had a volume of about 600 m³ and reached an altitude of about 1,000 m. On 19th September a further development of the balloon was presented to King Louis XVI. The first passengers of aviation – a sheep, a cock and a duck – were put in a wicker basket, which was fastened underneath the balloon.
The Montgolfier brothers developed their balloon even further, until a balloon made of canvas was created, stuck with paper and richly decorated. It had a diameter of 16m, a weight of 1,600 pounds and held a volume of 3,000 m³. Underneath the balloon there was a gallery made out of willow rods covered with material and a fire site which was kept burning from the gallery during the flight. With this balloon, which was called Montgolfière after his inventors, the first manned flight was successful on 15st October 1783. The pilot was Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. The old dream of mankind – to be able to fly – began to come true with the invention of the balloon.
You can watch a short and entertaining YouTube clip
about the Montgolfière on our YouTube channel SchreiberBogen