Barnstorming aeronauts floated in balloons over York County in 1800s

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The ascension of brave folks in balloons has taken place for decades. Here, artist Lewis Miller captures the ascension of a balloon from York, Pa.’s Penn Park in 1835. Notice the crowd that had gathered to watch the contraption ascend. Also of interest: 5,000 Penn Park fans witnessed first York night baseball and Where was York County’s earliest documented airstrip?

In 1854, George Elliott prepared himself to ascend in a balloon over Hanover. A newspaper reported that arrangements are made with the “intrepid Aeronaut” for the public-pleasing stunt.
This information came from my “Never to be Forgotten,” and is presented here as a tie-in to the confusing incident in Colorado in which a 6-year-old boy was thought to be aboard a balloon.
In the 1800s, itinerant balloonists toured the country – and York County – to show off.
According to “Never to be Forgotten”:

“An added crowd pleaser comes when the aeronauts toss dogs or cats in parachutes from balloons. James Mills, another such aeronaut, ascended from York’s Penn Park in 1835, floated over the Susquehanna and landed in Columbia, Lancaster County. A couple of months later, he died of a stroke. About which, a newspaper reported, “Needless to say, the balloon ascension scheduled for next Saturday will not be held.” Unmanned ballooning is also a popular hobby in the county. People send small, paper hot air balloons aloft with the aid of burning sponges. Charles Ginter’s balloon, made up of 96 sheets of red, white and blue paper, travels three miles from York to Peter Peter’s York Township Farm.”

For more on early York County balloonists, see June Lloyd’s Universal York post: Balloons in York County Skies.
Lewis Miller drawing courtesy of York County Heritage Trust.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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