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The Unfortunate Endeavours of Charles Henry Brown

Aeronaut 1827–1870

Terence FitzSimons

This is the biography of a pioneer aeronaut, Charles Henry Brown, whose life-long obsession with aerostation took him from his native Great Britain to Australia and India. The story of his quest for recognition is deeply researched, while being told in an anti-generic mode – imagined dialogue, play scripts and speculative interventions.
To date Brown’s story has not been told in any great detail, and in the few instances where his achievements have been noted the records are marred by inaccuracies. While the story is prima facie an historical biography it also highlights the travail and frustrations faced by the early aviation pioneers – in an age of innovation and advancement they were viewed by many in the scientific community, and the general public, as being no more than providers of novelty entertainment. Brown never accepted this role and had a greater vision of the future of aviation.
Brown’s story also reflects the many interesting, and to us, peculiar aspects of contemporary Victorian society.
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Chapter 11: Steady as she Goes

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CHAPTER 11

Steady as she Goes

Though having been confirmed in his position as Coxwell’s booking agent, Brown could find little work to offer to his client. The failures at Woolwich for which Stewart was responsible had reflected on Coxwell, as he feared, and his professionalism had been brought into question.1 On the other hand, Brown had acquired something of a reputation as a manufacturer of novelty balloons, floating giant manikins and parachutes, and this small business generated sufficient extra income to make it a worthwhile undertaking. The notoriety attached to this work was some small compensation for Brown not actually getting into the air. Coxwell took Brown’s small balloons with him to use as additional attractions for the amusement of spectators and also to release as a distraction in the event of a failure of the Sylph or Napoleon to get aloft. This balloon-making, however, was not without its trials.

During September 1856 Henry Gore ordered a number of small balloons which he intended to release during the celebrations to mark the opening of a new gasworks at Worksop in south Yorkshire. The balloons were promptly manufactured and delivered, but Gore subsequently reported that they had not performed as promised. According to Gore they had not got aloft and he declined to pay for them. There the matter rested for three months. Then, on the 23 December, Brown received a letter from a gentleman at Brockley in Lincolnshire, advising him of the recovery...

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