Monsieur Garnerin Drops In
Visitors from Napoleon’s France may not have been especially welcome in England in the early nineteenth century, but thirty-three-year-old André-Jacques Garnerin, who dropped out of the sky by parachute over London just 200 years ago this month, qualified as a hero. Early in the evening of September 21st, 1802, Londoners thronged St George’s Parade Ground, in North Audley Street, and the surrounding area, to see the Frenchman score a historic ‘first’. Never before had anyone made a parachute jump from a balloon in Britain.
Below the huge striped hydrogen balloon was what resembled a closed umbrella – or, according to some ladies, a hooped petticoat. Suspended below this, clad in blue jacket, white waistcoat and nankeen pantaloons, and waving a silk French tricolour, stood Garnerin in a small basket. When all was ready, the whole structure, about 120 feet tall, was carried aloft to about 8,000 feet. Then Garnerin cut himself free. Air filled out the parachute canopy above him and then, swinging on the gentle south-west wind, he landed near St Pancras Church less than two miles away.
This article is available to History Today online subscribers only. If you are a subscriber, please log in.
Please choose one of these options to access this article:
- Purchase an online subscription
- Purchase a print and online subscription
- If you are already a print subscriber, purchase the online archive upgrade
Call our Subscriptions department on +44 (0)20 3219 7813 for more information.
If you are logged in but still cannot access the article, please contact us
- Middle East
- North America
- South America
- Central America
- Early Modern
- 20th Century
- Economic History
- Environmental History
- Food & Drink
- Historical Memory
- Science & Technology