The header to the blog is taken from one of Hamilton’s diaries (No.10, 3-17 August 1784). It shows a sketch she made of Lunardi’s air balloon – one of the first air balloons to be launched in England.
On the 13 August 1784 Hamilton went to see the balloon at the Lyceum. This was the first opportunity she had had to ‘see one of these curious vehicles’. She describes in detail the construction of the balloon and the entry also notes that Lunardi and an Englishman were to ascend in it and that the King and Queen were to watch. Tickets to view the balloon at the Lyceum on the day of its launch were priced up to 1 guinea. A later entry notes that that the balloon was launched but that a dog and a cat ascended with Lunardi rather than an Englishman. It also notes that the dog and cat were later exhibited at the Pantheon and Pall Mall.
There are further references to air balloons in the diaries which reveal the excitement they created in society at that time. One of Hamilton’s friends spent 5 hours in a coach going to see the balloon at Chelsea and all she managed to see was the top of it. The ‘mob’ was so enraged that the balloon was not allowed to ascend because it was raining ‘that they set fire to it & destroy[e]d what cost some hundred[s] of pounds’. Another friend, Lady Herries, also went to see a balloon and doubted that it would succeed getting off the ground as ‘it was an old one that had failed in France’. She told Hamilton that the owner of the balloon had collected £2000 worth of subscriptions and that it was a ‘miracle that he escaped the fury of the mob’.