Balloon Ascension

After the Civil War hot air balloon “barnstormers” traveled around the country, demonstrating their aerial prowess at local fairs and celebrations. Some even jumped from balloons using parachutes. The Lincoln Daily Call on August 25, 1890, reported one such performance held at Lincoln:

“Cushman park had its full share of visitors yesterday, the great attraction being Prof. Ten Broeck and his monster baloon [sic], City of London. . . . At four Prof. Ten Broeck had all things in readiness for his ascension and shortly thereafter, amidst the cheers of the multitude, he went sailing skyward in his balloon, every moment becoming to the eyes of the spectators a mere speck. He reached an altitude of about 6,000 feet before he began his descent, and would not have done so then had it not been for the fact that the air was too cold for him to venture further in his light raiment. But while yet almost out of sight the professor loosened his parachute and began to descend to earth, wobbling from side to side picking his way, it seemed, to a favorable spot of alighting.

“As he began to near the earth the crowd began to anticipate where he would strike the ground and ran in wild excitement to their fancied spot only to find that he was yet just a little ways farther on and away they would go again, over fences, gardens and some favorite flower bed of the suburban housewife, scaring chickens and cows, arousing dogs and not a few irate Germans whose patches of cabbage and potatoes had been ruthlessly trampled by the excited mob of followers. Finally the professor struck terra firma about a mile and a half southwest of the place from which he started and after lustily cheering him the crowd wended back, some to pick their hats[,] handkerchiefs and other articles dropped in their excited chase.”

Professor Ten Broeck promised Lincolnites another ascension from Cushman Park the following Sunday. However the Call on September 1, 1890, reported that just before the second attempt, “flames from the [balloon’s] furnace were forced through the chimney by a gust of wind, and into the balloon they went, causing an instantaneous explosion” that destroyed the City of London and temporarily ended Ten Broeck’s aerial career.

(July 2004)

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