Via The Writer’s Almanac:
It’s the birthday of the inventor and aviation pioneer Joseph Montgolfier, born in Annonay, France (1740). He and his brother Étienne made a bag out of silk and lit a fire under the opening and watched it take off. They thought it was the smoke that caused the bag to rise. So in 1783, they made a huge bag out of cloth and paper and held its opening over an extra smoky fire of sheep’s wool and damp straw. The bag slowly inflated to a height of about 110 feet. When it was full, the brothers released it, and it rose more than 3,000 feet into the air.
The big day for the Montgolfiers’ invention came on November 21, 1783, when the first human beings in history took flight. Joseph and Étienne decided not to be the pioneers themselves. Instead, they sent up two volunteers, one of whom was a major in the French army. Almost half a million people came to watch the takeoff from Paris.
At first, there was so much smoke that the two pilots could barely breathe, but slowly the blue cotton cloth balloon inflated, showing its gold embroidery pattern. And once it was full, the crowd of spectators watched as the first human beings ever to fly rose into the air. They floated over Paris for almost a half and hour.
One of the people watching the takeoff that day was Benjamin Franklin. When asked what practical purpose this new flying contraption might have, Franklin replied, “What use is a newborn baby?”
It was on this day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing American women the right to vote, was declared in effect. After the Congress passed the amendment, it had to be ratified by a majority of state legislatures. The state that tipped the balance was Tennessee, and the man who cast the deciding vote was the 24-year-old representative Harry Burn, the youngest man in the state legislature that year. Before the vote, he happened to read his mail, and one of the letters he received was from his mother. It said, “I have been watching to see how you stood but have noticed nothing yet. … Don’t forget to be a good boy and … vote for suffrage.”
At the house, supporters of suffrage sat in the balcony, wearing yellow roses. On the house floor, those who opposed suffrage wore red roses. When Burn entered the room, he wore a red rose and the anti-suffrage camp thought they had his vote. But when he was called on to say aye or nay for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, he said, “Aye,” and the amendment was ratified by a vote of 49 to 47. A witness there that day said, “The women took off their yellow roses and flung them over the balcony, and yellow roses just rained down.”