I wonder how I first became aware of balloons. Not those decorating parties, but big balloons that take people on adventures high above the earth. Could it have been in a children's book? Was it from a movie, such as The Wizard of Oz or Around the World in Eighty Days? I don't remember, but I do recall feeling wonder and wanting to float in the sky.
People have regarded balloons with wonder since 1783, according to David L. Bristow, author of Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era. Many, such as the Montgolfier brothers or John Steiner, thought a balloon filled with hot-air or helium was the vehicle of the future, offering fast, smooth travel to distant destinations. If only someone could steer one and keep it afloat. The men and women featured in the stories of this book risked their lives trying to advance balloon technology or apply balloons to their needs, such as studying the atmosphere or escaping from besieged cities. Sadly, they never made ballooning safe, as the harrowing tales in this book attest. They did, however become heroes of their times, and their stories still make fascinating reading for young and old.
Bristow, David L. Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010. ISBN 9780374370145.