There is a story told that the first manmade object to achieve escape velocity, was a [man hole style cover][1], over an exhaust vent, from an underground nuclear bomb test.  

However, they quote this on the website.

> But the assumption that it might have escaped from Earth is
> implausible (Dr. Brownlee's discretion in making a priority claim is
> well advised). Leaving aside whether such an extremely hypersonic
> unaerodynamic object could even survive passage through the lower
> atmosphere, it appears impossible for it to retain much of its initial
> velocity while passing through the atmosphere. A ground launched
> hypersonic projectile has the same problem with maintaining its
> velocity that an incoming meteor has. According to the American Meteor
> Society Fireball and Meteor FAQ meteors weighing less than 8 tonnes
> retain none of their cosmic velocity when passing through the
> atmosphere, they simply end up as a falling rock. Only objects
> weighing many times this mass retain a significant fraction of their
> velocity.

From another amusing perspective, there is a great science fiction story, called [King Davids Spaceship][2] by Jerry Pournelle that postulates a universe where the interstellar faring societies will not intervene unless your planet can reach orbit, and for political reasons a planet requires space flight as soon as possible, so they build a manned craft, that uses the approach of firing a gun downward, (sort of chemical version of Orion) to reach orbit. 

Pournelle is fun for writing good science fiction, and it has interesting discussions of the issues involved.