The first manned balloon flight was also made in France, on November 21, 1783 using a Montgolfier balloon and hot air for lift. The first balloon flight in the United states was made on January, 9, 1783 in Philadelphia by Jean Pierre Blanchard.
On August 27, 1783 a French chemist inflated an balloon with Hydrogen and launched it unmanned in Paris, the following December a manned flight was made using a Hrydrogen balloon.
Hydrogen was better for balloon flight because it had superior lift and was not susceptible to cooling like hot air, its major downside is that Hydrogen is highly flammable and potentially explosive. Coal gas which was used for streetlights was also used for a short period of time, it is also flammable but was readily available.
Helium, which was discovered in 1895, became commercially available in 1918, although it was expensive and did not provide as much lift as Hydrogen, it was non-flammable
People went crazy for balloons, and up untill the 1930's balloon flights, races and anchored balloon rides were popular events in both the U.S and Europe.