The first manned hot-air balloon, designed by the Montgolfier brothers , takes off from the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, on November 21, 1783
The first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy and was built by the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. These brothers came from a family of paper manufacturers and had noticed ash rising in paper fires. The Montgolfier brothers gave their first public demonstration of their invention on June 4, 1783. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first tethered balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 19, 1783 with the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud de Villette, at the Folie Titon in Paris. The first free flight with human passengers was on 21 November 1783. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis Francois d'Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor. The first hot air balloons were essentially cloth bags (sometimes lined with paper) with a smoky fire built on a grill attached to the bottom. They were susceptible to catching fire, often upon landing, although this occurred infrequently.
Only a few days later, on December 1, 1783, Professor Jacques Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert made the first gas balloon flight, also from Paris. The hydrogen filled balloon flew to almost 2,000 feet (600 m), stayed aloft for over two hours and covered a distance of 27 miles (43 km), landing in the small town of Nesle.
From Wikipedia: History of ballooning
Can you imagine the excitment this must have generated! I do get a chuckle thinking of Louis XVI decreeing test pilots should be condemned criminals. What a great way to make an escape! I also love the connection between hot air balloons and wallpaper as the story of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon reveals. It seems his papier blue d'Angleterre was a favourite of Marie Antoinette's.
Thanks to the work of Harleywan Haggwood, the Duché de Coeur has many hot air balloons available for public use. It's a wonderful way to explore the Duchy especially now that the trees are such vivid autumn colours. Visit le Jardin Francais, Provence Coeur Est2 Hot Air Balloons & Carousel for free rides. Wane's Baroque Balloons are also available for purchase at this location.