James & Ezra Allen

Barrington natives James Allen (1824-1897) and his younger brother Ezra Allen (1840-1902) distinguished themselves through a lifelong commitment to aeronautics in the 19th century. In the words of Christopher Lynch, the New York aviation historian who recommended the Allens to us, “If there is a first family of aviation in Rhode Island, it has to be the Allens”.

James Allen’s first ascension in Rhode Island took place in 1856, and for the next 50 years Allen balloon ascensions became a part of the state’s culture. James Allen was America’s first military aeronaut, and he and Ezra served with distinction during the Civil War. Count Ferdinand Zeppelin first went aloft in an Allen balloon, and George Armstrong Custer was another of the Allens’ military passengers. 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.


Induction was accepted by Ezra Allen’s grandson, Bill Nangle, assisted by Christopher Lynch.

Professor James A. Allen

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.



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