Arago: Balloon Jupiter Issue

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Balloon Jupiter Issue

The balloon Jupiter stamp was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of John Wise’s (1808-1858) balloon flight from Lafayette to Crawfordsville, Indiana, complete with flown mail on board. His balloon, the Jupiter, is depicted on the stamp, with a crowd below and flags on the balloon netting. In dark blue and red, the stamp is for the 7-cent air mail rate then in effect

Designed by Austin Briggs, the stamp was produced by Giori Press Printing, and production was of 200 subjects in four panes or sheets of 50 stamps each. Perforation is 11.

First day ceremonies were in Lafayette, Indiana, complete with balloon ascensions from the city. One memorable flight was made by the then Balloon Club of America, launching from Lafeyette in an effort to trace at least part of the flight John Wise made, and carrying first day covers with them. The majority of the first day covers (of which there are many popular cachets), remained on the ground, cancelled with the date Aug. 17, 1959; over 383,000 covers were reported to have been issued.

Wise’s 1859 flight was of particular interest because it was advertised in advance to be carrying “circulars, letter bag, express mail, the charter greetings from Lafayette to her sister Cities in the east, etc.” Indeed, Postmaster T. Wood published the following beforehand –

“Express mail by the balloon Jupiter.

All persons who wish to send letters to their friends in the East by the balloon today must deliver them at the post office previous to noon as the Jupiter’s mail closes at that hour. The letters must be addressed by the words “Via Balloon Jupiter,” added to the ordinary direction and prepaid. This mail will be conveyed by Mr. Wise to the place of landing with the balloon when it will be placed in the nearest post office for distribution. ” (Robert Schoendorf, Catalog of Classic American Airposts and Aeronautica 1784-1900, Postilion Pub., 1982)

Of 146 pieces of mail reportedly carried on this flight, to date only one surviving cover and accompanying letter have been found. Many more first day covers commemorating the centenary of this flight survive today to celebrate Wise’s accomplishment.


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