Peter Carnes, a lawyer and tavern keeper from Bladensburg, Maryland, read the storied reports of the Montgolfier’s experiments with hot-air flight. Carnes was inspired to recreate the experiment himself, and announced in the local papers he would launch his own balloon. On the designated day, a crowd gathered at the Walnut Street Prison yard (chosen to keep the non-payers out) to watch Carnes take off in a balloon. But Carnes, a large man, was too heavy for the balloon. The experiment was almost a failure, if not for a brave young volunteer.
On this day, June 23, in 1784, in Baltimore, 13-year-old Edward Warren, using a hot air balloon invented by the Montgolfier brothers in France in 1783 and built by Peter Carnes, went airborne in the first successful manned balloon launch in the United States.
Warren’s flight touched off a wave of private pleasure flights all over the United States and Europe. Balloon aficionados filled the skies, and their descents, still for the most part uncontrollable, often led them onto fields of local farmers, who took the men in their strange contraptions for sky demons. So was born the tradition of celebrating champagne on landings: the early balloonists carried bottles with them to appease the farmers and prove their terrestrial origins.