Advertising Airshows

A colorful history from the National Air and Space Museum’s poster collections.

1886 airshow poster

Long before the airplane, there were airshows. The very first one may have occurred in Paris on August 27, 1783, says Tom Crouch, a curator in the aeronautics department of the National Air and Space Museum. On that date, Jacques Alexandre-César Charles "flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower." Tickets were sold, and the public promptly went balloon-crazy. As many as 400,000 people—half the city's population—says Crouch, gathered to watch a hydrogen balloon ascend from the Jardin des Tuileries.

Pictured above: This 1886 poster publicizing a fair in the Square des Batignolles shows that 100 years later, balloons were still popular, but the public required a little something extra—in this case, a trapeze act performed by Louis Godard and Gabriel Yon.

Airplane-and-Auto Races


This unusual commemorative 1912 poster doesn't offer any clues as to where the depicted airplane and auto race took place. By 1912, races between the two machines were commonplace, but the route would typically pass through several cities. This competition is a bit different in that it seems to take place on a racing track.

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