Frank Hedges Butler, 1855-1928, balloonist and pioneer of flying, was born in London 17 December 1855, the fifth son of James Butler, wine merchant, of Hollywood, Wimbledon Park, by his wife, Frances Mary, eldest daughter of William Hedges. He was educated at private schools at Brighton and Upper Clapton and, after travelling on the continent and in South America, entered the family business of Hedges & Butler (founded in 1667), Regent Street, London, in which he became a partner in 1882. He married in 1880 Ada (died 1905), daughter of Joseph Bartholomew Tickle, wool broker, of London and Sydney, and by her had one daughter, who shared many of his motoring and ballooning adventures.Hedges Butler was one of the first persons in England to own a motor-car. He acquired a Benz car in 1897, and in the same year was appointed first honorary treasurer of the newly-formed Automobile Club of Great Britain, a post which he held until 1902. It was the shortcomings of a motor-car, and the consequent abandonment of a motor tour in Scotland in September 1901, which led Butler to turn his attention to the air. A balloon ascent was suggested instead of the tour, and Butler and his daughter, accompanied by the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls [q.v.], went up in a balloon, the City of York, from the Crystal Palace, with Mr. Stanley Spencer in control. While in the air over London, Butler suggested the formation of an Aero Club as a branch of the Automobile Club. The suggestion bore fruit, and the Aero Club of the United Kingdom was registered at Somerset House in October 1901, and the first balloon ascent organized by the club took place in November.The club (which in 1910 became the Royal Aero Club) brought together inventors and sportsmen, and supplied them with a ground at Shell Beach, Isle of Sheppey, suitable for their experiments. When the club was founded no power-driven aeroplane had yet been flown, and the members were chiefly interested in the balloon and the airship. When, however, the invention of flying became a reality, Hedges Butler took a keen interest in the early experiments, and in 1908, when the American inventor, Wilbur Wright, came over to France in order to demonstrate his aeroplane, Butler was one of the first
two Englishmen to fly as passenger with him.By 1907 Hedges Butler had completed one hundred balloon ascents, including a solo flight which established a record for distance in England (1902), and the world''s longest cross-Channel balloon voyage (London to Caen, 1905).
As a result of the successful flights by Wilbur Wright in France in 1908, the Aero Club undertook the training of aeroplane pilots, to whom, from 1910 onwards, it issued its certificates; these were recognized by the government when it was decided to establish a national air service. The Aero Club, indeed, played an all-important part in fostering the early development of flying in England, and it was Hedges Butler who inspired the club''s activity in this respect and supplied much practical help. Although he did little flying himself after 1908, his interest and enthusiasm never flagged.Hedges Butler''s concern with the air diminished in no way his interest in travel. In the course of his business he often visited the wine-producing countries of Europe, but these journeys only stimulated his enthusiasm, and with great enjoyment he moved widely about the world. He told the story of his adventures in Five Thousand Miles in a Balloon (1907),
Through Lapland with Skis and Reindeer (1917), Fifty Years of Travel by Land, Water, and Air (1920), Round the World (1924), and Wine and the Wine Lands of the World (1926). He was elected F.R.G.S. in 1877.Hedges Butler had still other interests. He was a violinist of merit, and in 1894 founded the Imperial Institute Orchestral Society, in which he played one of the first violins. He was a man of hospitable nature with a gift for friendship, who enjoyed splendid health, as well as ample means to indulge his many enthusiasms. He died in London 27 November 1928.A cartoon of Hedges Butler by ''Spy'' appeared in Vanity Fair 11 December 1907.
Artware Ltd has 565 antiques for sale.
click here to see them all