7 January 1785 – the day Jean Pierre Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries became the first aeronauts to fly across the English Channel .
An account of the time tells us that the men were wearing frock coats, dimity waistcoats, nankeen britches, white silk stockings and shoes festooned with black silk ribbons. Their hats were covered with japan (silk) to which were fixed cockades from which arose a small ostrich feather.
Jefferies wrote his account in his 1786 book ‘A narrative of two aerial voyages’ and there are many sources where we can read the story – including the part where our plucky pilots were perilously close to the sea and started to throw overboard excess baggage, including their trousers!
You can read more about Jean Pierre Blanchard HERE.
One account of the plucky duo’s flight is as follows….
“Together with one of his benefactors, Dr. John Jeffries, an American living in England, Blanchard planned the first aerial crossing of the English Channel. Though Blanchard needed Jeffries to pay for the expedition, he certainly did not want Jeffries to accompany him and share the glory of being the first to cross the Channel. However, Jeffries insisted he be taken along and even signed a contract stating that, if necessary for the success of the flight, he would dive overboard. At Dover Castle on the English coast, Blanchard made his preparations, but he refused to allow Jeffries into his barricaded camp. Jeffries retaliated by hiring a squad of sailors to storm Blanchard’s fortress. Eventually a truce was negotiated, and Blanchard reluctantly agreed to let Jeffries accompany him.”
There are a number of 18th century engravings, prints and paintings of the flight….