Check it out: a brand new column by yers truly just went up on the amazing (ahem) Amazing Stories site. Here's a tease:
“This is unquestionably the most stupendous, the most interesting, and the most important undertaking, ever accomplished or even attempted by man…”
The 1800’s — especially the middle to latter half — were a time when it seemed like everything either was happening or could happen any day: the photograph was coming into common use, the telegraph meant communication at the speed of light, anesthesia promised (for the first time) painless surgery, Babbage began work on his analytical engine, and the possibility of conquering the bounds of earth seemed just around the corner.
However, according to a series of articles published by The Sun in 1944, that aforesaid conquering wasn’t a matter of years but had actually been phenomenally achieved by one Mr. Monck Mason.
First appearing in April 13, 1844, a New York paper proclaimed – in LOUD and DRAMATIC type: ASTOUNDING NEWS! BY EXPRESS VIA NORFOLK: THE ATLANTIC CROSSED IN THREE DAYS!
That initial article went on to announce that the machine in question was a STEERING BALLOON named VICTORIA, and that the trans-Atlantic voyage took an amazing SEVENTY-FIVE HOURS FROM LAND TO LAND.
Okay, weird and wild claims were somewhat common back then – just take a look at the very fanciful “Great Moon Hoax” published only ten years before — but who could doubt the authenticity of such a detailed report? Each article was packed with immaculate details of how this incredible voyage was achieved.
Take for instance, that the trip began on Saturday, April the 6th, 1844, at 11:00AM from Penstruthal, in North Wales. The participants being “Sir Everard Bringhurst; Mr. Osborne, a nephew of Lord Bentinck’s; Mr. Monck Mason and Mr. Robert Holland, the well-known aeronauts; Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, author of ‘Jack Sheppard,’ etc; and Mr. Henson, the projector of the late unsuccessful flying machine — with two seamen from Woolwich — in all, eight persons.”