The Allen Family of Aeronauts

The September 27, 1888, wedding of Margaret Buckley and Edward T. Davis was held at the Rhode Island State Fair at Narragansett Park in Providence. An article in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper estimates that 40,000 watched as Davis and Buckley entered the “specially prepared ‘bridal car’ of the mammoth balloon Commonwealth, held down by 24 men at the guy ropes.” After the ceremony, aeronauts James Allen and his son James Kinnecutt Allen. directed the balloon skyward.

The Allen Family of Aeronauts

According to New York-based aeronautical researcher Chris Lynch, “If there was a founding family of RI aviation, they are it.” Last year the Hall of Fame inducted James Allen (1824-1897)  and Ezra Allen (1828 – 1900). This year, the induction includes the remaining Allen aeronauts, who flew balloons well into the 20th century.

Family members to be honored include James K. Allen, eldest son of James; his sister Lizzie; and their brother E. T. Allen. The youngest sibling, Malvern Hill Allen, named for the Civil War battle during which his father had earned a commendation as a Union Army balloonist, began to fly after 1881. Eventually, James K’s wife and their four daughters also flew, as did Ezra’s wife Mary Frances Penno. In his fine book “Eagles Aloft”, Tom Crouch reports that by July 1891 James Allen and his sons James K. and Malvern Hill had made 481 ascensions. The Allens taught and extended aeronautics well beyond themselves, most notably to more than a half dozen of their offspring, a few of whom became noted aeronauts in their own right.  Crouch writes, “The Allens continued to fly well into the 20th century, earning national fame as ‘America’s First Family of Aeronautics’.”

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