What has Benjamin Franklin to do with the Montgolfier brothers and their hot air balloon? Well he was exactly in Paris at the spot where the brothers successfully launched their first flying vehicle from the Place de la Concorde, which was then known as Place Louis XV. And he choose a good spot on the other side of the Seine to watch the event, where today is the Quai Anatole France. An excerpt from our upcoming guide on the Founding Fathers in Paris.
From these gardens on December 1, 1783, Benjamin Franklin watched one of the first manned flights of a hot-air balloon, built by the Montgolfier brothers. (The actual takeoff spot was at the entry to the gardens by Place de la Concorde, which we can’t see from here.) Franklin’s interest in this momentous event was twofold: first, he was a member of the Loge Les Neuf Sœurs (the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, named after the nine muses), a French Masonic lodge founded in 1776 and instrumental in garnering French support for the American Revolution. One of the Montgolfier brothers, Jacques-Etienne, was a member of this lodge. (Isn’t it interesting that both the hot-air balloon and the airplane were pioneered by brothers?) Other celebrated lodge members included the philosopher Voltaire, naval hero John Paul Jones, sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon and Dr. Joseph-IgnaceGuillotin (not, as is often thought, the inventor of the guillotine, but its main promoter as a quick and thus humane means of execution). We’ll hear more about these famous Freemasons later in the tour.