NEWS11 Remembers: 1907 Balloon Race

Posted on: 9:17 pm, September 26, 2012, by , updated on: 03:53pm, September 26, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – Earlier this month the great Forest Park Balloon Race celebrated its 40th anniversary.  But St. Louis is also known for a very famous balloon race held in 1907.

The balloon ascension grounds as they called them were located in Forest Park and these balloons were filled with propane natural gas generated by Laclede.

But this was not just any balloon race.  In the fall of 1907 St. Louis hosted the second annual Gordon Bennett balloon race.

It was a huge deal that made headlines worldwide in part because Gordon Bennett was a newspaper tycoon and because his balloon race was not about speed but about distance.

They are a little worried about the wind.  They are fearful it is going to take them to the great lakes so they`ve loaded the balloons with the survival gear they need if they got dumped into Lake Superior.  They are also carrying saws and other forestry equipment in case they come down in the woods somewhere.

In all, about a dozen balloons representing four different countries lifted off from Forest Park on October 27, 1907.  The race ended a few days later in a small seaside town in New Jersey, where the German balloon called the Pommern won the silver cup after traveling about 800 miles in 40 hours.

Yeah there are airplanes but it is nowhere near as exciting as these balloonists who simply fill these things with gas, go up and wander wherever the winds take them.

Even St. Louisans who had no interest in the race were forced to take notice of its date and time because while the balloons were being filled, they lost their natural gas service.

But despite that inconvenience the Gordon Bennett race was held in St. Louis again in 1910 and 1929 and it is still held today in cities around the world.

News 11 remembers is brought to you by the Missouri History Museum and America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses.  I’m Paul Schankman.