The worn and delicate newspaper under careful watch inside Deptford Township's municipal building - an inked record that has survived since the presidency of George Washington - does not mention the Gloucester County town.

Yet those who know the events of Jan. 9, 1793, understand that a small story tucked inside, about a "majestic" hot-air balloon flight, has Deptford written all over it.

On that day 222 years ago, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard left Philadelphia for the sky in a spectacle that attracted the nation's first commander-in-chief and future Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. They, along with scores of others in streets and atop roofs, witnessed the first manned flight in America.

Less than an hour later, Blanchard's balloon landed in Deptford - the aeronaut bearing wine, a dog, and a language barrier that separated him from the farmers who witnessed his descent. A letter from Washington (and the wine) helped ease the minds of the wary (if not downright shocked) farmers, the story goes.

But it was not until last month, when a resident donated a copy of the Jan. 19, 1793, issue of the Boston Columbian Centinel, that the township had any tangible remnant of that momentous event, officials say.

"This is the first thing we've actually gotten our hands" on, Mayor Paul Medany said, wearing purple latex gloves to handle the newspaper.

Fifteen rounds were fired as Washington arrived to see the balloon's inflation, the short report noted, and two cannons blasted every 15 minutes until Blanchard departed.

Blanchard "appeared to be as much elated, as he was elevated," the article said. He took off about 10 a.m. from the Walnut Street Prison, near Independence Hall.

"It was impossible for any one to say in what direction his car would move; or where he would land," the story continued. "If the wind in the upper atmosphere was fair, he was expected to arrive at New-York at night - The citizens of which place were on the look-out for this unusual visitant."

Instead, Blanchard's balloon traveled about 15 miles south and descended in Deptford, near the Clement Oak Tree by Big Timber Creek.

If Blanchard were to make the same journey today, he would wind up behind a Wal-Mart Supercenter near Route 42. Officials have used the site for commemorative events, although a plaque has been stolen several times, Medany said. A small marker now notes the location.

Still, the tale has remained the township's claim to fame. Hot-air balloons can be found on the town's municipal building and water tower.

"It's fascinating," Medany said, wearing a black-and-gold jacket emblazoned with a balloon.

Medany said the township would look into having the newspaper professionally framed and displayed in the lobby of the municipal building, where paintings depicting Blanchard's journey already hang.

"There are people who grew up here that still don't know about it," Medany said. "That's why we're trying to promote it."

Last month, the township filed a letter with the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee asking that a stamp celebrating the "first in flight" be created, Deptford administrative assistant Debbie Willard said. If selected, a new stamp can take more than three years to be unveiled.

The importance of the event has not been lost on Steven Saymon, 57, the 14-year Deptford resident who bought the newspaper from a dealer in Williamsport, Pa. He donated it to Deptford around the same time the township appealed to the stamp committee.

"This is the first one that I found," Saymon said, "though it doesn't specify Deptford Township."

A retired Brooklawn police inspector who responded to the 9/11 attacks in New York City, Saymon has been a key force behind a proposed 9/11 memorial in Philadelphia. He has helped distribute artifacts and material from the attacks, including to Deptford.

"Before I die, I have a little bucket list," Saymon said. "It makes me feel good to do this kind of stuff."

Saymon would not reveal how much he paid for the newspaper, except to say the price was "reasonable."

"For the Township of Deptford," he said, "it's priceless."

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