New York, 1844. The New York Sun was just another daily newspaper, fighting for its life against the archrival Herald and the new kid on the block, the Tribune. In those days of old, the papers were the main source of news. So, the paper that gets news out the fastest is gonna be the one with the sales. All the papers were about even when it came to printing and circulation of the new edition, so the bottleneck, speed-wise, was the reporting. The reporters were to go out, find a story before anyone else, and return with a article, ready for immediate printing. Any accuracy problems would be fixed later, in a tiny 'Corrections' box shoved in a corner on the last page.

One day, on April 13, the newest reporter for the Sun - an unknown, and kind of a flake, he was, but a very talented writer nonetheless - he came in breathless with the most incredible story of the decade. As he reported, a balloon that was launched from North Wales had just landed in South Carolina!

It seems that eight intrepid explorers, led by the well-known aeronaut Monck Mason, had built a dirigible with an Archimedian screw attatched to it for the purposes of propulsion. They aimed to fly to the New World. On liftoff from an explorer's home in North Wales, the dirigible had been able to maneuver into a strong upper-level wind just before the screw broke. But, those plucky young men were blessed, because the wind carried them (at the then-unthinkable speed of 60 miles an hour) all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to landfall near Fort Moultrie in the Carloinas. The entire trip took only three days.

The Sun took the story and ran with it! The headlines blared, "Astounding News by Express. VIA Norfolk! --- The Atlantic Crossed in Three Days... by Flying Machine..." The story was printed in its entirety. The reporting was breathless. A hubristic quote from the article - "The great problem is at length solved. The Air, as well as Earth and the Ocean, has been subdued by science, and will become a common and convenient highway for mankind. The Atlantic has actually been crossed in a balloon!"

This was pure, rock-solid 24 Karat gold from the new fish. His by-line was proudly displayed on the front page - reported by Edgar Allen Poe.

Poe had just moved from Philly with less than $5 to his name. Starving, he immediately got a job with the Sun, where the action seemed to be the best. He then took the instructions to get a story at any cost to heart. He took a few ballooning figures from recent history - Monck Mason had ballooned from England to Germany - and had totally fabricated a story around it. The Sun printed it and made a mint.

The next day, somewhere on the back page, The Sun admitted : "Balloon -- the mails from the south ... not having brought confirmation of the balloon from England ... we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous." Not that it mattered at that time. Poe was fired. The 'news' of the event persisted. And (I'm not sure of this fact) the influx of revenue saved the Sun's bacon.

Edgar Allen Poe entered the most creative part of his career right after this event, a period of great works that was sustained to his death.

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