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Transportation, Aviation, Art, Ballooning Broadside, Mrs. Graham, First Ascent at Night by a Female, Antique Print, 1850


Mrs. Graham: The First Ascent at Night, Ever Attempted by a Female!
[Ballooning Broadside Handbill]
H. Green, 64 Blackman Street, London: 1850
Hand colored lithograph
9 x 7 inches image to ruled border
10.75 x 8 inches overall

Broadside handbill advertising the hot air balloon flight of Mrs. Graham, the first woman to make a nighttime ascent. As the subtitle explains, this event took place on Friday Night, July 26th, 1850, from Vauxhall Gardens in London. The illustration shows her aloft in a red and white striped balloon emblazoned with the name “Mrs. Graham” against a moonlit sky. She waves a Union Jack British flag from the yellow balloon passenger basket, which is festooned with red bunting. This broadside is apparently rare, as is typical for ephemera; we have only been able to locate one other in the Hulton Archive, Getty Images.

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Margaret Graham, popularly known as Mrs. Graham, and her husband George were well-known English balloonists of the mid 19th century. They made many ascents from the 1820s to the 1850s, sometimes on public occasions such as Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. In a flight during the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, they had difficulty steering the balloon around obstacles and sustained injuries and were knocked unconscious when it crashed on the roof of a building. They both eventually recovered, although Mr. Graham broke his collarbone and Mrs. Graham lost four teeth in the incident. In fact, the Grahams were famous for surviving various near-fatal mishaps, including a fire around 1850 that engulfed one of Mrs. Graham’s balloons and was recorded in a drawing in the Illustrated London News. Despite her risky profession, she died peacefully of old age in 1880.

Vauxhall Gardens in London was a popular site for entertainments, and many balloonists launched from there. Mrs. Graham made her 65th ascent from Vauxhall in 1830, and the first nighttime ascent by a woman there in 1850 (advertised and illustrated in the offered broadside). Advertisements and news accounts of her exploits sometimes referred to her as Female Aeronaut to Her Majesty, though it is not clear if that title was actually conferred on her by the Queen. However, the July 13, 1850, issue of The Economist does report on a “grand fete” at Vauxhall Gardens during which Mrs. Graham, “accompanied by a young lady, her daughter, and a gentleman, ascended in the Royal Victoria and Albert balloon, which made its debut in the presence of a large assemblage of spectators.”

Full publication information: Lithographed & Published by H. Green 64 Blackman St. Boro., London.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned, deacidified, and flattened, with some light remaining handling, wear, as well as light folds, probably as issued. Early color, though possibly not original.


“Balloons.” The Vauxhall Society. (1 June 2015).

“Best of News: A Woman’s Place.” Hulton Archive, Getty Images. (2 June 2015).

“‘Mrs Graham’s Balloon on Fire,’ c. 1850.” Science & Society Picture Library. (1 June 2015).

“News of the Week: Metropolis.” The Economist. 13 July 1850. p. 771. Online at Google Books: (2 June 2015).

“Performers: Non-Musical Performers at Vauxhall.” Vauxhall Gardens 1661-1859. (1 June 2015).

Prendy, Andy. “Mrs. Graham The Balloonist.” 5 September 2012. Fine Art America. (1 June 2015).

The Annual Register, Or, A view of the History and Politics of the Year 1851. London: Rivington, J.G. & F., 1852. p. 80. Online at Google Books: (1 June 2015).

Additional information


19th Century