Artifact: Hot Air Balloon History

A 19th century storage bin commemorates the record-breaking flight of a Cincinnati silversmith-turned-aeronaut.
A 19th century storage bin commemorates the record-breaking flight of a Cincinnati silversmith-turned-aeronaut.

Photograph by Anna Jones/OMS

Though Englishman Richard Clayton put down roots in Cincinnati as a watchmaker and purveyor of silver, it was his passion for balloons that earned him some attention. On April 8, 1835, Clayton took to the skies via hot air balloon, leaving from Cincinnati on a record-setting excursion. The voyage soon decorated the likes of storage jugs and bandboxes, such as the one shown here, part of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection. “[It] was just kind of used every day in the household,” says curator Amy Dehan. “That it survived is actually quite amazing.”

Almost Heaven
Clayton’s famous journey, depicted on the outside of the bandbox, spanned 350 miles in 9.5 hours, setting a distance record for hot air ballooning at the time. He left from a downtown amphitheater on Court Street and ended his voyage in Monroe County, Virginia (present-day West Virginia). The town was renamed Clayton to mark the occasion.

Concealed Carry
Pasteboard or cardboard boxes like these were common in American households for the storage of hats, letters, or anything relatively lightweight. “They were [like] the plastic containers you can get at the store today, but much more interesting,” says Dehan.

First Date
The exact origin of the bandbox is unknown, but it was most likely created between 1835 and 1850. This particular bandbox was decorated with pieces of hand-printed wallpaper.

Clayton’s Ascent, c. 1835–1850, pasteboard, wallpaper, newspaper and string, 13 x 15 x 18 1/2 in. (33 x 38.1 x 47 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Jim and Sheri Swinehart, 2013.23a-b

Originally published in the March 2015 issue.

Photograph by Anna Jones/OMS

Facebook Comments