Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Hot Air Balloons in the 1700's

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared about the existence of dinosaurs in Colorado. Hard to believe when you look at the land today, but there are fossilized footprints and tons of evidence all over the state. If you missed that post, you can read it here:

Today, let's move from what roamed about the ground to what soars high in the sky and entertains millions every year.

* * * * *

The History of Ballooning

This past weekend marked the 44th anniversary of a hot air balloon festival in Colorado Springs. Every year on Labor Day weekend, dozens of pilots gather in Memorial Park to launch their amazing balloons over the heads of thousands of attendees just as the sun is peeking through the morning clouds and shining on the "purple mountain majesty" mountains to the west. They also do a balloon "glow" at sunset where the balloons remain grounded but inflated and at set times, they all release the liquid propane into the burners and shoot the flames inside, making them "glow." It's quite a sight to see, and my family has made it a tradition to go every year.

This year was a bit different due to the restrictions of large gatherings, so instead of a single gathering at one park, the festival spread out all over the city. There were 15 different launch sites and balloons filled the air from every direction it seemed. Since they were too far away from my vantage point, I'm sharing some photos from previous years.


After hearing and answering a slew of questions from my children about hot air balloons and how they work, I decided to check out a little bit of history. What I discovered surprised me, since I learned people have been flying in balloons for over 200 years!! Who would have thought that could even be possible?

And Americans were actually late to almost 50 years! The first manned balloon ride was in Paris in 1783, almost half a century before the famed Charles Durant. A year later, in 1784, a group crossed the English Channel.

The first balloon flight in America was in 1793, observed by a rather substantial crowd which included President Washington. However, the aeronaut was Frenchman Jean Pierre Francois Blanchard. Therefore, when Durant took off in 1830, he was the first *American.* Ballooning still seemed new and exciting in the United States, and not many had succeeded. The New York Post wrote:

"The spectacle drew many people to the Battery, which was literally covered with an immense multitude of every age, sex, and color, whose faces were all turned upward. It is estimated that upwards of 20,000 people were collected to see a man risk his neck for their amusement and for their money."

Amazing isn't it, how many people will pay a lot of money to watch someone else attempt death-defying feats?

For this particular showcase, Durant wore a top hat and tails. That attire alone would draw a crowd, but it also lent a certain air of sophistication to his imminent journey and flight. Once in the air, he was aloft for about three hours, and he landed in a field in New Jersey, surprising the farmer named Johnson who owned the land. Three years later, in May 1833, Durant published a letter in the Journal of Commerce called "A New York Balloon Ascension." I just love the eloquence showcased here in his descriptive recounting of the experience:

"Here burst upon my sight one of the most imposing views I have ever beheld. Call it majestic, splendid, or sublime — invoke a Shakespeare's mind to describe, or a painter's to portray it — even thought must fail to conceive the rich downy softness and white fleecy accumulation of clouds piled in waves as far as the eye could reach, covering the earth, and closing to my sight the land, water, and everything, animate or inanimate, that I had so long and often viewed with delight. Above me nothing but a clear, cerulean expanse — the golden sun-beams spreading over the vast ocean of clouds, and extending through immensity of space where sight is bounded, and from whence even thought returns, unable to traverse the confines of the vast field beyond."

Doesn't that make you want to find someone who owns a hot air balloon and beg them for a ride? I know my children beg me every year to ride in one, and so far, I have been successful in deterring them. It's an expensive venture. Nearly $250 per person! I might be able to at least get them into the basket of a balloon next year so they can take a picture. Between now and then, we'll see if I can manage an actual flight. Personally, I'd like to take one first -- one that ends with a glass of wine to toast the successful adventure. *winks*

The commercial airlines, particularly since the security checks became intrusive, have since taken some of the romance out of flying, but there is still a definite fascination which exists in many hearts and minds about the idea of soaring through the sky, high above the ground below, free as a bird and floating on the wind. Something about freedom, wouldn't you agree?

* * * * *


* Have you ever taken a ride in a hot air balloon or stood inside the basket?

* Is there a hot air balloon festival near you, or have you attended one at any point in your life?

* If you could take a hot air balloon ride anywhere you wanted, where would you go?

* What did you like most about today's post?


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker who is also an advocate for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help better their lives.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs in Colorado. She has sold twenty (23) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.


  1. When I was about 14, my brother and I went for a hot air balloon ride in rural Indiana. I absolutely loved it! I didn't know until 30 years later that my older brother was scared to get in, but he was not going to be shown up by his little sister! :-) (He loved it once the ride got going)

    1. That's a great story, Lisa! Oh, the things we do to make sure we are not showed up by our younger siblings. Lol! Sounds like it was a fun ride!

  2. In Vermont there is a similar festival and we used to attend with our children. I've never had the desire to go in one. It truly is beautiful to see them all inflate and take off. Thanks for the post!

    1. Connie, did the festival in Vermont take place this year? The one here in Colorado touted itself as being 1 of only 10 in the world happening this year due to all of the restrictions on social gatherings.

      And no desire at all to get into that tiny little basket?😉

    2. Tiffany, I had to Google it to find out what happened this year. It was canceled due to Vermont having no festivals of any kind this year. So sad. And no desire to ride, at least not yet. LOL!