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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 24: The All England Eleven



The All England Eleven

After a wait of close on three years, Brown finally had a balloon at his disposal that he could use on his own terms. Granted, it was a machine that had not been built to last. He quickly sought out Pond and offered his services in connection with the visit of the All England Cricket XI, who were already in Victoria and were scheduled to play against a Victorian XVIII in the new year. Pond was happy to engage Brown at a fee of ₤40, but the balloon would have to be named the All England Eleven. Pond would pay for the decoration of the craft.

Left to his own devices Brown quickly made the arrangements for the ascent. The Melbourne Gas Company was prepared to inflate the balloon gratuitously from the mains it had newly laid up to Fitzroy Square.1 This offer was made not out of altruism, but rather to stop the rival gas company in Fitzroy gaining any publicity and establishing good-will.2 It was just a short way across Wellington Parade to the Melbourne Club Cricket Ground where the match was to be played. The balloon was elaborately decorated, with a portrait of Queen Victoria painted on one side of the 45-foot tall envelope and the Arms of Australia on the opposite side, and its name lettered around its 116-foot circumference. Pond and Spiers placed advertisements in the newspapers promoting the event, untruthfully boasting that...

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