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.
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.
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.