Fun facts about Balloons
Giant balloons were first seen the air before toy balloons came to be. In 1783, the first balloon flew over the heads of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in France. The first passengers were a rooster, duck and a sheep. The balloon flew for 8 minutes on a tether and traveled 2 miles. The animals were unharmed. Over time balloon envelopes have been made of paper, rubber, fabric and plastics. The most common gasses are heated air, helium and hydrogen.
The most famous hydrogen balloon, airship, some may say, is the Hindenburg that flew from Germany to New Jersey in 1937 but burst into flames upon landing, fell to the ground and killed many.
Balloons have been used for military. Abraham Lincoln had a Balloon Corps and the balloons were used to spy on the enemy from as far as 15 miles away. Balloons have been used for many other purposes including weather forecasting and for multiple medical procedures including procedures to clear clogged arteries. Balloons are also a wonderful addition to parades and events.
The first balloons, as we generally know them, were made by Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with gases. He cut two sheets of rubber, rubbed flour in the center then pressed the edges together. This was the beginning of the toy balloon.
Natural balloons are made of latex and biodegradable but most rubber balloons are chemically treated, lasting longer and so there is concern for the environment. The balloon council suggests anchoring helium balloons and rather than releasing balloons into the air, dropping them from a structure so that the debris can be cleaned up.
There are safety tips to pay attention to when playing with balloons. Small children should be watched with balloons since a popped or deflated balloon is a choking hazard. Helium gas too can be dangerous if inhaled, it displaces oxygen which is needed for normal respiration and there have been cases of death from inhalation. People can also have a latex (natural rubber) allergy.
Rubber trees grow in tropical climates and grow up to heights of 130 feet. It has a white milky sap known as latex. Latex is collected by cutting small slits in the bark to release the sap. A collecting bucket is attached to the tree to catch the sap. This does not hurt the tree. Then the sap is taken and rolled into sheets and dried. It is eventually shipped to factories where additional changes are made to create many familiar products.
Rubber has been used in society for many years. Over 3000 years ago the Aztec, Olmec and Maya peoples harvested latex from rubber trees and mixed the sap with juice from morning glory vines that contain a chemical that make solid latex less brittle. Some of this rubber was used in ancient time to make bouncy balls for games.
Here is a fun annual event: