The history of ballooning has received considerable attention from historians examining the technological innovations behind it as well as from scholars interested in aeronautical anecdotes concerning launches and disasters. The cultural importance of this new machine, however, remains less fully analyzed. This essay explores one facet of that history through a discussion of the commodification of launches in France and Great Britain. These two countries, which have larger middling classes as well as a higher degree of commercialization in general, provided a fertile environment for aeronauts seeking to instruct and entertain an audience willing to fund ballooning. Balloonists had to invent ways to market this scientific discovery and determine how best to attract paying customers. The audience was entertained while simultaneously empowered to act as witnesses to what balloonists presented as a scientific experiment.
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