First Dirigible, 1852 – Wills’s Aviation #6

First Dirigible

History Behind The Card: First “Dirigible”, 1852
Card #6 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910


  • Henri Giffard, February 8, 1825 in Paris, France – April 14, 1882, in Paris, France.

Henri Giffard

Although ballooning had become very popular, it was until September 24, 1852 that the first dirigible—a balloon with propulsion and steering—was devised by French engineer Henri Giffard.

Cigar-shaped and 43.89-meters (144-feet) long x 11.89-meters (39-feet) wide, Giffard added a vertical rudder and attached a small 3-horsepower steam-injector motor to a large propeller that allowed the balloon to speed through the sky for the 27-kilometer (l16.78-mile) trip from Paris to Trappes, France at a top speed of 9.26-kilometers per hour (5-miles per hour)—though the Wills’s card notes a top speed of 12.96-kph (7-mph). Considering the Wills’s card calls the Frenchman Henri by an English appellation of Henry, you may make your own decision regarding speed accuracy.

Although the wind was too strong to allow Giffard to return to the start, he was able to make turns and circles proving that a motor-powered aircraft could be steered and controlled.

The engine weighed over 180-kilograms (400-pounds), and was fitted with a downward pointing funnel. Its exhaust was mixed together with the combustion gases to stop sparks from rising up and into the balloon’s gas bag.


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. Along with writing for a monthly industrial magazine, he also writes comic books and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. Along with the daily Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife blog, when he feels the hate, will also write another blog entitled: You Know What I Hate? He also works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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3 Responses to First Dirigible, 1852 – Wills’s Aviation #6

  1. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1910 – 50 Cards | Pioneers Of Aviation

  2. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 75-Card Series | Pioneers Of Aviation

  3. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 85-Card Series | Pioneers Of Aviation

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