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The incredible Patent Impulsoria

The Illustrated London News for 22 June 1850 explains how this amazing invention works:

This ingenious means of applying animal power to the working of railways, so as to supersede the costly locomotive engine, has lately been invented in Italy, and exhibited experimentally upon the South-Western Railway. It consists in introducing the animals into a kind of coach, called Impulsoria, by which they transmit their acting power to the leading wheels.

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Charles Green and his Great Nassau balloon

Our picture shows one of the 527 balloon flights made by Charles Green (1785-1870), the most renowned British balloonist of the 19th century.

This ascent, made in 1850 from Vauxhall Gardens, was in his Great Nassau balloon, named after his record flight of 1836 from Vauxhall to Weilburg in the Duchy of Nassau in Germany, a distance of 480 miles in 18 hours – a record not broken until 1907.

Charles Green’s first ascent was from Green Park in 1821 to celebrate the coronation of George IV. He constructed the Great Nassau Balloon in 1836, and made his first flight in it that year, ascending from Vauxhall Gardens with eight other people. He made five other ascents in it from Vauxhall, including his famous record flight, and the one recorded in our picture. One of these flights ended in tragedy: on a flight with the aeronaut Edward Spencer and Robert Cocking, again in 1836, Cocking jumped out at a height of 5,000 feet to descend by parachute, but was killed when he reached the ground.

Green made experimental ascents with George Rush (his companion in our picture) to see how high the Great Nassau balloon could go – they reached a height of over five miles, and during the flights their barometer recorded temperatures below freezing point. In the 1840s he developed his ideas on the practicability of crossing the Atlantic by balloon. His last ascent was made from Vauxhall Gardens in 1852.

Before Green’s time hydrogen gas was used to inflate balloons, which was very expensive and slow to generate – it used to take two days to fill a balloon. Green showed that coal gas was a far more practical way to inflate balloons. He also invented the guide rope, a rope that trailed from the basket and could be lowered and raised to regulate ascents and descents.

His name lives on: the Charles Green Salver is awarded by the British Balloon and Airship Club for exceptional flying achievements or contributions to ballooning.

Dealers in human flesh

‘I was much struck with the general well-to-do look of [the slaves], for I had imagined they would have wretched, down-trodden appearance showing marks of ill-usage, and be afraid to look up at strangers; instead of which I found them well dressed, well fed, and apparently happy and contented; but I was looking on the surface only, I suppose.’

Thus writes a Special Correspondent of the Illustrated London News, sent to Richmond, Virginia, USA in 1861 to report on the slave auctions. To gain entrance to an auction he had to promise not to libel or misrepresent the Southerners on pain of being tarred and feathered! This is part of his long report:

‘The auction-rooms for the sale of negroes are situated in the main streets, and are generally the ground floors of the building; the entrance-door opens straight into the street, and the sale-room is similar to any other auction-room. I observed that placards, advertisements and notices as to the business carried on are dispensed with, the only indications of the trade being a small red flag hanging from the front door-post, and a piece of paper upon which is written with pen and ink this simple announcement – ‘Negroes for sale at auction this day at ten o’clock’ … Besides this written notice and the heading to a sheet of letter-paper, I saw nothing in print or writing having reference to the sale of negroes – no catalogues nor descriptions of lots; nor could I find any advertisements in the local papers …

‘I had a good opportunity to look at the crowd of men about me who dealt in human flesh, and I am bound to say that I saw nothing very dreadful in their appearance; they carried neither revolvers nor whips. They were not a gentlemanly-looking lot of men certainly, but seemed quiet, respectable people, such as one might meet at a sale of books or old china in any part of London. At length a fine-looking coloured man was put forward. He walked straight up to the block, mounted it, and put himself in a most dignified attitude … He was a remarkably good-looking man, and I felt sure that a sculptor would have pronounced him by far the best-looking man in the room.

‘A few steps lead to the top of the block and upon one of these the auctioneer or crier, as he is called, stands, and a red-faced, impudent, vulgar-looking individual he was in this case … He described the negro as sound in wind and limb, as being a good farm hand, could guide a plough, shoe a horse, and mend a hoe, but he was not a first-rate smith. Then the biddings commenced, and 800 dollars were offered.’

The ILN reporter’s contact claimed that the slave owners had been ‘most foully slandered by Mrs Beecher Stowe’ (the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), and that ‘the Northerners were continually threatening immediate abolition and proposing to use force to carry out their views; that they [the Southerners] were determined to meet force by force, and that there was, in consequence, little chance of peace between them.’ The American Civil War broke out in April 1861, soon after the ILN article appeared, and in 1865 it ended, the Confederate (slave) states having been defeated.