Some online resources related to the topics of my books:
Flight to the Top of the World: The Adventures of Walter Wellman
The Aerial Age, by Walter Wellman (1911). “Will you walk with me a while in the paths of adventure?” writes Walter Wellman in the introduction to his 1911 memoir. “For that is what this book is to deal with–adventures in Polar Ice, far out upon the broad sea, and high up in the air which covers them both.” Page images at Archive.org
Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era
Timeline of Early Flight: the Balloon Era to the birth of powered aviation. Air travel wasn’t invented all at once. It took centuries. Here are key events in the development of aeronautics up to time of the first successful airplanes and airships.
Ballooning Narratives. Some of the early aeronauts wrote about their own experiences. Here are a few of my favorite first-person accounts:
- How John Wise exploded his balloon at 13,000 feet… on purpose. The American aeronaut was convinced that a burst balloon would form a natural parachute, and in 1838 risked his life to prove it. (Wise’s incredible 800-mile St. Louis-to-New York State flight is the subject of a chapter in Sky Sailors.)
- John Poole and the “sublime of stillness”. Poole was a English playwright who took a balloon flight in 1838 and wrote colorfully about the sensations of rising high above the earth.
- Balloon vs. stone wall: Henry Coxwell’s high-speed crash landing. Flying in high winds was dangerous, as Coxwell learned in 1861. (The following year, he took a balloon above 30,000 feet—without oxygen—which is the subject of a chapter in Sky Sailors.)
- Trapped in the sky! Gertrude Bacon and the balloon that wouldn’t come down. In 1899, Bacon and her companions were nearing the English coast in a balloon that refused to come down. Would they be swept out over the North Sea?
Centennial of Flight (U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission). This NASA-sponsored site includes lots of materials for students, teachers, and flight enthusiasts. It has a lighter-than-air section with articles about balloons and airships.
Tissandier Collection at the Library of Congress. Brothers Gaston and Albert Tissandier were balloonists in France in the nineteenth century. They assembled a large collection of balloon-related images that now belongs to the U.S. Library of Congress. More than 400 of these fascinating images are posted online, including portraits, sketches, posters, and technical drawings—some of which appear in Sky Sailors and on this website.
The Conquest of the Air, by John Alexander. Google Books has a number of full-text ballooning books (the narratives above link to some of them). Alexander’s 1902 book is a readable, relatively brief history of aeronautics that was published a year before the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. The book’s final chapters speculate about the future of flight.
A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tales of 19th Century Omaha
To Nebraska in 1857: A Diary of E.F. Beadle. Beadle’s diary is one of the liveliest first-person accounts of life in territorial Omaha. Here is the complete text, for which I wrote a new introduction.
My employer, the Nebraska State Historical Society, has the most comprehensive collections of historical resources related to Nebraska and Omaha. Douglas County Historical Society and the Durham Museum are also a great resources.