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History of Balloons

The Pre Rubber Era of Balloons
Long before there was something so stretchy as rubber, balloons were a fact. In the pre-rubber era, balloons came from animal bladders. A pig’s bladder was inflated by Galileo in an experiment to measure the weight of air. Inflated animal bladders were used in play by Indian and Eskimo children. Most of the bladders were from sea animals.

Balloons in Dancing
Balloon developments have included designing and making special balloons for special uses by particular individuals. One was for dancers. A small foot pump was used to inflate the balloon at a critical moment in the dance.

Sally Rand danced at the Italian Village of the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. The balloons she used were transparent. They inflated to five feet in diameter. A problem developed. The balloons burst at an embarrassing moment. A representative of the manufacturing company went to Chicago to see if he could find the trouble’s cause. He found it. It was a certain audience member who shot paper clips with a rubber band slingshot.

The trouble was cured by lowering a barrier between the audience and the dancer. It was a curtain of silk that stopped paper clips and other missiles but did not stop the view.

Twister Balloons – late 1950’s
In the late 1950’s, several companies began marketing the skinny-twister balloons which are used by most rubber-sculptors today. The quality was much improved, the colours were bright, and almost anyone could inflate them. Best of all they were inexpensive when compared to the regular-sized airship balloons. They made an excellent give-away. It was inevitable that the art of balloon sculpturing be revived. The new balloons were more than twenty times the diameter, in length. This enabled the sculptor to make many twists in one balloon. The inventor of the one balloon animal is unknown, but his origination opened the door to a new art.

Latex Balloons
Latex balloons are made with 100% natural rubber enabling the balloons to biodegrade completely. The degradation process begins immediately the balloons are inflated and this is accelerated once the balloons are exposed to light. The first signs of the process are visible after one hour when the balloon takes on an opaque or milky look, known as oxidation. The length of the degradation process depends on the exposure to UV light, but according to scientific research the length of this process is approximate the same as a leaf from an oak tree under similar environmental conditions.

Rubber Balloons
The first rubber balloons were made by Professor Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with hydrogen at the Royal Institution in London. The caoutchouc is exceedingly elastic’, he wrote in the Quarterly Journal of Science the same year. Bags made of it…have been expanded by having air forced into them, until the caoutchouc was quite transparent, and when expanded by hydrogen they were so light as to form balloons with considerable ascending power….’ Faraday made his balloons by cutting round two sheets of rubber laid together and pressing the edges together

The tacky rubber welded automatically, and the inside of the balloon was rubbed with flour to prevent the opposing surfaces joining together.

Toy Balloons
Toy balloons were introduced by pioneer rubber manufacturer Thomas Hancock in 1825 in the form of a do-it-yourself kit consisting of a bottle of rubber solution and a condensing syringe. A toy balloon – a very old plaything – children floated them around on strings for over a hundred years. A few decades ago when long balloons appeared. These were soon turned by magicians into huge animals, but when the pencil balloons appeared, animal making came into its own.

Foil Balloons
The concept and technology for the metalisation of plastic sheeting that has given us foil balloons comes directly out of the NASA Space Mission. The balloon industry uses the name as foil balloons, because they are made of nylon sheet, coated on one side with polyethylene and metallised on the other.

Hydrogen Balloons
Hydrogen and helium have long been part of people’s fascination with the balloon world. The gases cause balloons to rise. Hydrogen and balloons were first brought together by Faraday. Hydrogen brings a lot of play and joy to the balloon world, but it brings an equal or greater amount of danger. It easily explodes and catches fire. Hydrogen-filled balloons can float to a site of combustible material, explode, and start a fire.

Hydrogen was originally used to inflate balloons. Hydrogen brought play and joy to the balloon world, but it also brought an equal or greater amount of danger. Hydrogen easily explodes and catches fire. Hydrogen was eventually replaced by helium, a non-flammable gas. Although hydrogen had one-tenth more lifting power, helium was much safer making it possible for balloons to have a variety of uses.

As early as 1914, thoughtful firemen were trying to ban the use of hydrogen in toy balloons because of the danger. In 1922, New York City banned hydrogen-filled toy balloons by official ordinance. The action was taken after a prankster exploded hydrogen-filled balloon decorations at a city function, and an official was badly burned but in spite of the danger, hydrogen-filled balloons did deliver pleasure, adventure, and education. A 1929 magazine reported that a Mickey Mouse balloon released from somewhere in the United States, startled a group of persons when it landed in Africa. A youth in Pennsylvania received word that a balloon bearing his name had been picked up by a fisherman in Singapore.

Balloon Races
The same year, balloon races launched in Chicago had returns from as far away as North Carolina and Virginia. One of the balloons in the race traveled 600 miles in less than twelve hours.

Education and practical information come from probing air currents over the earth by means of hydrogen-filled balloons. This assisted early aviation.

Prior to the first World War, the probes were used to help devise formulas for ascension and flight of much larger balloons. This delivered information later used to calculate altitude at which pilots could fly with the wind, adding to the plane’s speed.

Helium Balloons
Hydrogen was eventually replaced by helium. Though hydrogen had one-tenth more lifting power, helium was safer.

The safety made it possible for gas-filled balloons to be used in dramatic ways in advertising. Helen Warny became a leader in this field. In the 1920’s, she was founder of The Toy Balloon company in New York. She used luminous and other balloons in balloon showers, balloon-decked parade floats, and fashionable window displays. The peak of her efforts came when she released 50,000 helium-filled balloons at one time. Each was printed with an advertiser’s name and bore a tag which offered a prize to the finder.

Some balloons today are specially designed for being filled with helium. They are self-sealing, which helps eliminate helium waste. They have their own strings attached.

Silk Screen Printing for Balloons
In more recent years the development of silk screen printing has taken the place of flexo printing as it gives a more precise print and allows a bigger image on the balloon.

Ink is transferred onto the balloon through a silk screen. A sharper image is obtained even when the balloon is fully inflated, in more recent years the development of silk screen printing has taken the place of flexo printing as it gives a more precise print and allows a bigger image on the balloon. Ink is transferred onto the balloon through a silk screen. A sharper image is obtained even when the balloon is fully inflated.

Balloons in Advertising
One of the first times advertising balloons were used was in the early 20s by the toy balloon company in New York they released 50,000 helium filled balloons at one time, each being printed with an advertisers name and bore a tag which offered a prize to the finder.

Court Entertainers & Jesters using Balloons
Balloons have been used for many centuries, originally jesters and other court entertainers, to inflate and make shapes, used animal bladders and entrails. We understand that the first rubber balloon was used in 1824 for experiments with hydrogen at the Royal Institution in London

Printed Balloons
Nowadays large quantities of balloons are printed for the advertising market. The improvements in printing over the years have enabled a wider and better use of advertising balloons to the retail market. Latex balloons are manufactured from natural rubber; the white sap is extracted from the Haevae Brasilienis tree and collected in liquid form, which is then referred to as latex.

Apparently latex is collected without harming the tree by using environmentally safe, age-old process similar to that used for collecting the sap from maple trees for syrup. The tropical rain forest trees are very valuable, highly coveted, and a well-protected natural resource. These precious trees play an equally valuable ecological role in the earths fragile ecological balance by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which helps prevent global warming. As rubber is extremely versatile in its use, there is a great demand in modern living.

Such are balloons….

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