#FlightyFridays — Henri Lachambre, Balloon Manufacturer

Manufacture d'aérostats de Vaugirard, fondée en 1875 (Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris).

Henri Lachambre was perhaps the most reputable balloon manufacturer at turn of the century. From his atelier in Vaugirard (a neighborhood in the outskirts of nineteenth-century Paris) he built balloons for individuals and governments all over the world. Among his customers were the United States Army Signal Corps, the Swede S.A. André (who perished in an ill-fated balloon expedition to the North Pole in 1897), and the Brazilian aeronaut Alberto Santos-Dumont (discussed in the previous #FlightyFridays).

Like most people involved in the business of aeronautics at the time, Lachambre was a passeur who shifted between the worlds of "serious science" and of "frivolous amusement"—something expressed in the whimsical cover to his sales catalog. At the center, donning Lacahmbre's name, we have a standard balloon that scientific-minded aeronauts used to explore the upper reaches of the atmosphere and wealthy Aéro-Club de France members used to make their fashionable ascents. Surrounding that balloon are numerous humorous balloons in the shape of elephants, jockeys, pierrots, devils, and more—the kind of stuff we might see at at the Thanksgiving Macy's Parade, but smaller. In short, whether you were a wealthy aristocrat looking for a new sport, an aspiring man of science with a sense for adventure, or someone wanting to add some spice to your local quartier party, you could find something in Lachambre's catalog.