[Railroad train at the Paris Exposition, 1889]
Albert Tissandier Collection.
The Tissandier brothers, Gaston Tissandier (1843-1899) and Albert (1839-1906) combine such gifts as balloonist, writer, and illustrator. While Gaston tested the limits of balloon ascension, Albert made drawings of natural phenomena in the upper atmosphere. Gaston studied chemistry and in 1864 became the head of the experimental laboratory of Union Nationales. He was also a teacher at Association Polytechnique. His interest in meteorology led him to take up aviation. His first trip in the air was conducted at Calais in 1868 together with Claude-Jules Dufour, where his balloon drifted out over the sea and was brought back by an air stream of opposite direction in a higher layer of air. In September 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, he managed to leave the besieged Paris by balloon. Gaston Tissandier reported his meteorological observations to the French Academy of Sciences. In 1873 he founded the weekly scientific magazine La Nature, which he edited until 1896, after which it was continued by others. As a team, the brothers developed a design for an electric-powered airship in 1885: In 1883, Tissandier fit a Siemens electric motor to an airship, thus creating the first electric-powered flight. Gaston's most adventurous air trip took place near Paris in April 1875. He and companions Joseph Crocé-Spinelli, journalist, and Théodore Henri Sivel, naval officer, were able to reach in a balloon the unheard-of altitude of 8,600 meters (28,000 feet). Both of his companions died from breathing the thin air. Tissandier survived but became deaf. The Library of Congress Tissandier Collection contains approximately 975 items documenting the early history of aeronautics with an emphasis on balloon flight in France and other European countries. The pictures, created by many different artists, span the years 1773 to 1910. The collection comprises images of flights the Tissandier brothers participated in as well as flights they observed between 1865 and 1885. Gaston Tissandier flew over enemy lines during the Siege of Paris in 1870, and Albert made drawings of several balloons that were used to carry passengers and supplies over enemy lines.