Thursday, July 15, 2021

The night the aeronauts invaded Derby

The Gordon Bennett Cup, launched during 1906, is the oldest gas balloon race in the world, according to our friends at Wikipedia. Sponsored originally by James Gordon Bennett Jr., owner of The New York Herald newspaper, it also is known as the Coupe AĆ©ronautique Gordon Bennett and the most recent winner, during 2019, was Switzerland.

Back in 1911 --- the fifth year of the race --- the international event was held in Kansas City and as a result of a fickle twist of the wind several entries in the American Nationals, preliminaries to the big event itself, floated over Lucas County overnight on July 10-11, hovering at times low enough for crew members to converse with natives on the ground.

Here's how The Chariton Herald reported these encounters on the front page of its edition of July 13:


Derby people who were up late on Monday evening or arose early Tuesday morning enjoyed the thrills experienced at an aviation meet when seven balloons racing in the National Balloon Race which started from Kansas City at five o'clock Monday evening visited Derby either when going north in the evening or when going south in the morning. While they were pretty well up in the world, they were not above interviewing Derby citizens and farmers.

About 11:30 o'clock Monday evening the balloon Buckeye, an Ohio balloon with J.H. Wade as driver and R.H. Hitchcock as aide, was sighted by Dr. R.F. Throckmorton. The balloon rested over the doctor's residence while the driver informed the doctor he had lost his compass and also his chart of Iowa. He was amazed to find they had traveled so far and did not think they were far from Kansas City.

The doctor then followed in his automobile, on terra firma of course, and was able to get two other interviews, the substance of which was telegraphed at the request of Mr. Wade to the Kansas City papers.

Messrs. John Troutman and Nath Patterson, west of town, and Carl Taylor, northeast of Derby, were among the farmers who had talks with the aeronauts. Three of these balloons went west of Derby, two over the town and one just southeast of town.

These balloons are in an elimination contest for the James Gordon Bennett cup next fall. The two leaders will be privileged to sail two of the three balloons in that contest. Miss Sofia, one of the leading lady aeronauts of this country, is in this contest and driving her balloon, the Miss Sofia, but if she was among the number that was seen here she was not recognized.

The balloons were carried along by a stiff breeze northeast from Kansas City, but sometime in the night the wind in the north drove them south again, when they were seen in Derby between 4:30 and 5 o'clock in the morning.

Some of the balloons were also seen by farmers in Warren township, it is reported, and others crossing above Cleveland. All of them alighted in safety after a good run, but none of them alighted near here.


We'll most likely never know if any of the three U.S. finalists were among those who floated over Lucas County. They were Lt. Frank P. Lahm, of the U.S. Army, and Capt. John Barry and William S. Assmannu, both of St. Louis. In addition, there were two entries in the Gordon Bennett Cup race from Germany and three from France.

The goal of the race was to fly the greatest distance from the embarkation site after launch in Kansas City on Oct. 5 and the winner was Lt. Hans Gericke, of Germany, in command of the Berlin II. He landed some 440 miles to the northeast at Holcombe, Wisc., on Oct. 8 and returned home with the cup.

No comments: