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Blondin-Stamm 1907 Hydrogen Balloon


Model ID#:





Hydrogen Balloon









Model Scale:




historical significance

First Albuquerque Visit:    1907

SKU: Model-0815 Categories: ,

Additional Information:

Ballooning in Albuquerque goes back to 1882. Just two years after the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Albuquerque, “Professor” Park Van Tassel, the owner of the Elite Saloon bought a balloon for $850. The balloon was made of black, rubberized cloth and was 38 feet in diameter with a volume of 30,000 cubic feet. The first ascension in Albuquerque was planned for the New Mexico Territorial Fair on the Fourth of July. All day long on July 3, Albuquerque Gas Works manufactured the Professor’s fuel, which was coal gas (a mixture of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide) by burning coal in a low-oxygen environment.

Inflation of the balloon began at 5 p.m. on July 3 on Second Street between Railroad (Central) and Gold avenues. Word went out that the balloon would launch at 6:15 p.m. People boarded mule-drawn street cars and made their way to Second Street. The balloon was only two-thirds full, but it was good enough. The Professor climbed aboard, untied bags of sand from the basket, and the “City of Albuquerque” rose above rooftops and floated slowly to the south. Then it appeared to stop its lateral movement and shot straight up among the clouds where another current of air pushed the balloon in a northwesterly direction.

The Professor landed in a cornfield at the rear of the Fairgrounds. A number of men on horseback rushed to help the aeronaut and then emptied the balloon and loaded up the airship. They returned to the Elite Saloon for a lively party. The first ballooning adventure over Albuquerque was a great success.

Plans were made for Van Tassel to fly again during the second annual New Mexico Territorial Fair, scheduled to begin Sept. 18, 1882. On Sept. 21, 100 men towed the balloon towards the fairgrounds, but it got away from them, rose quickly about a mile high and burst directly over the Fairgrounds. That was the end of Van Tassel’s balloon.

On the last day of the 1907 fair, Joseph Blondin flew solo in his poorly filled balloon. The day before, a company of 25 cavalrymen tried to fill the bag with hydrogen made from iron filings and sulfuric acid in a wooden vat. When that wasn’t satisfactory, the soldiers walked the partially filled balloon two miles through the South Valley to the city gas plant in order to continue filling it with coal gas.

At 10 a.m. the next day the bag appeared full, and the men walked the balloon back to the fairgrounds. After it lifted off, Aeronaut Blondin flew 18 miles up the Rio Grande Valley. The balloon landed safely near Corrales.

Afterward Blondin sold his balloon to Roy Stamm, a local fruit wholesaler who was secretary of the 1907 Fair Association, and went back to prospecting. At the 1909 fair, Stamm and Blondin, with a 10-man crew, set to work with a wooden tank generator to produce hydrogen, which had at one point sprayed Stamm with acid. After 30 hours of inflation, the tethered balloon rose, where it could be seen by President Taft from his special train. The first passengers were the ground crew of Fort Wingate soldiers, followed by hundreds of men, women and children who paid $1 to ride – a lot of money in those days – for 10 minutes on a 500-foot tether.

The two couldn’t provide a real balloon launch during the fair, but afterward, they rose into the air from a vacant lot at Sixth and Railroad (Central). A large, cheering crowd, including Mayor Felix Lester, watched as the basket cleared the electric wire of the trolley. It rose a mile above Albuquerque, floated over the Sandia mountains and was lost from view.

On the other side of the Sandias, the warm air of Estancia Valley caused the balloon to rise to 13,000 feet. The balloon appeared to be headed for Vaughn but soon dropped and landed at the base of Pedernal Hills in Torrance County. They returned by wagon to Estancia and rode the train back to Albuquerque, bringing the balloon and gondola with them. A two-hour flight had turned into a three-day return journey.