A trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico would not be complete without a visit to this international balloon museum, and if you dare, a hot air balloon ride.
Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
The balloon museum in Albuquerque is the place for anyone who dreams of flying among the clouds.
Named after two Albuquerque pilots who were pioneers in long-distance helium balloon flight, the balloon museum in Albuquerque is officially the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
In 1978, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman became the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean by gas balloon in the Double Eagle II.
In 1981, Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark, and Rocky Aoki of Japan became the first to cross the Pacific Ocean by balloon in the Double Eagle V. This balloon is now a stunning centerpiece at the balloon museum in Albuquerque. The Double Eagle V gondola is also on display.
After the death of Ben Abruzzo and his wife, Pat, in a plane crash in 1985, the Anderson and Abruzzo families formed a foundation and partnered with the City of Albuquerque to create the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.
At the balloon museum, you will learn the history of hot air and gas balloons, including the balloon pilots, aerialists, and daredevils who made that history possible.
My favorites are the 19th century female aeronauts.
The first woman to pilot her own balloon was Sophie Blanchard, the second wife of Jean-Pierre Blanchard, the French aeronaut. Jean-Pierre Blanchard launched the first hot air balloon in the United States in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793.
Sophie Blanchard made her first solo ascent in 1805. Only four years later, while flying a balloon with Sophie over The Hague, Jean-Pierre suffered a heart attack and fell to his death in 1809.
After her husband’s death, Sophie continued to earn her living as a balloon pilot. Sophie preferred to fly at night, sometimes sleeping in her balloon. Despite making more than 60 ascents, including crossing the Alps, Sophie may be more famous for her death.
As part of a celebration on July 6, 1819, Sophie took to the night sky in Paris. During a fireworks display, her balloon caught fire. As she descended, the balloon hit a rooftop, overturning the basket, and Sophie fell to her death, at the age of 41.
In 1995, Sophie Blanchard finally gained recognition as a balloon pilot when she became the first female to be inducted into the International Ballooning Hall of Fame.
Lieutenant George Philip Lempriere (1856-1949) of Handsworth, England was famous throughout Europe for his balloon ascents and parachute descents.
Some claim that Lempriere was the inspiration for Phileas Fogg, the main character in Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days.
In the 19th century, balloon ascents and parachute descents with female aeronauts became a popular attraction, and Lieutenant Lempriere introduced aerialists such as Marie Merton “The Champion Lady Parachutist of America”.
Marie Merton “drops from the clouds”
Marie Merton was an American balloon stuntwoman who traveled abroad to gain her fame.
She toured throughout Europe with Lieutenant Lempriere and his lady aeronauts, Maude Brooks and Cissie Kent.
Ascending in a hot air balloon up to 12,000 feet, the lady aeronauts would hold onto a wooden ring attached to a cotton parachute, jump from the balloon without ropes or a safety harness, and descend to the ground.
A London newspaper described Marie Merton’s parachute descent on May 4, 1891:
"The balloon proceeded to a considerable height. Miss Merton then was seen to entrust herself to the parachute...By skilful steering, she managed to get back into the locality of the ascent...only a few yards from where she first rose."
Carlotta, The Lady Aeronaut
Mary Hawley was born in Boston in August 1849 (specific day is not documented). On November 8, 1871, she married Carl Myers in Hornellsville, New York.
Mary’s husband had many professions, including aeronautical engineer, banker, carpenter, chemist, mechanic, photographer, printer, and writer. This combination of talents would prove useful in creating and promoting their balloon business.
At county fairs and carnivals, Carl took on the name, Professor Carl Myers. Not just entertainment, balloon shows also offered pre-show demonstrations of the scientific aspects of ballooning.
For her flying name, Mary used a female version of Carl and became Carlotta, The Lady Aeronaut. In Little Falls, New York on July 4, 1880, Mary made her debut as Carlotta, and became the first American woman to fly solo in a lighter-than-air balloon.
Using barometric and altitude readings to navigate the air currents, Mary was known for the precision of her balloon landings. She even set a world record – without additional oxygen for breathing assistance – at an altitude of 20,000 feet in a passenger balloon.
Lack of oxygen was not the only danger at high altitude. On July 2, 1883, Mary’s balloon broke into pieces. Steering the balloon’s fragments like a parachute, Mary was able to return safely to the ground.
Like her husband, Mary had engineering skills and demonstrated her expertise when they patented a balloon guiding apparatus and a balloon fabric varnishing machine in 1885.
In 1891, Mary retired from ballooning, and moved to a 5-acre farm with her husband to make and sell hydrogen balloons. “The Balloon Farm” in Frankfort, New York is still standing.
According to a 1903 article in the Pittsburgh Daily Post, Mary continued to “make an ascension now and then from the front lawn in a chosen one of her twenty-odd balloons.”
Back Down to Earth
The balloon museum in Albuquerque is sure to inspire an interest in ballooning. Take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque.
The International Balloon Museum is also home to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Hall of Fame. The annual induction ceremony honors balloon pilots – both past and present – from around the world.
The balloon museum is located next to the launch field for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Every October, up to 1,000 balloons take flight during this 9-day ballooning event.
Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
9201 Balloon Museum Drive NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87113
Go to the Albuquerque Balloon Museum website to learn more about visiting.
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East Coast Lighthouses
Where to Buy Authentic Native American Jewelry
Musée de l’Orangerie
Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival
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