Photo by Anonymous: Felix Nadar’s second ascension of Le’ Geant in Paris on October 18, 1863 (my mother’s birthday), shown aside a regular size balloon to contrast its gigantic size, on the ground where the Eiffel Tower now stands, Champ de Mars. Le’ Geant floated all night, but in the morning, it infamously landed (by crashing across the countryside in a high wind for 30 minutes, no one escaped injury) in Hanover, Germany (where King George V took them in). Nadar’s efforts to advance aviation were praised by Jules Verne, who in his next novel, modeled the main character Ardan after Nadar in Journey From The Earth To The Moon, where he was sent to the Moon in a cannon!
I’m probably not the only one in the extended Gentieu family wishing our ancestor, Pierre Gentieu (1842-1930) a Happy Birthday today, January 26 – as if we knew him personally – he would be 177 years old! After all, Pierre owned the entire set of Jules Verne’s approximately 30 science fiction novels, translated into English (when you just know he read the books in French!) so it’s no wonder to find him projected in our hearts, three, four, five generations later.
Consider this 1863 Parisian balloon scene and how different it is from the photo of the firing of the cannon, happening concurrently across the ocean. Imagine Pierre in 1863, age 21, as a carefree bohemian in Paris drawing satirical cartoons for underground papers, writing poetry, hanging out in salons, exploring his creativity, and perhaps he went ballooning. But instead he sailed to America, fought in the war to abolish slavery, married Binie Weed from New Canaan Connecticut, and Voila! Here we Are!
So Happy Birthday to Pierre, who spoke French (and English), stood up for his principles, fought in nine Civil War battles, and knew quite well that there was a more progressive use for the cannon than as exemplified in the photo above. At 177, he may or may not have gone to the Moon (who can really say), but astrologically, he is definitely completing his sixth Saturn return. (I checked his chart!) That is one wise old great great grandfather.