How the Invention of the Balloon Took Flight

Balloons can be found in every walk of life. From birthday parties to weddings, festivals to graduations, these events just wouldn’t be complete without the colourful addition of balloons floating around bringing life to the party.

But have you ever wondered how these fascinating party additions came to be? Balloons might look like a modern invention, but their creation actually started centuries ago. Here’s a look at where balloons started and how they’ve developed to be what we know today:

Who Invented the Balloon?

Balloons first existed in a rather grim form: they were made from pig bladders and animal intestines. The Aztecs created the first balloon sculptures using cat intestines, which were presented to the Gods as a sacrifice. Galileo also used inflated pig bladders in experiments where he would try to measure the weight of air. We should be glad that nowadays our birthday balloons are made of rubber and not animal body parts.

The first rubber balloon that most closely resembles modern balloons was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824. However, he didn’t invent them because he had a party coming up and needed table decorations, the balloons were in aid of his scientific experiments.

Whilst experimenting with hydrogen at the Royal Institute in London, Faraday made a rubber balloon from two sheets of rubber which were covered with flour from the inside so they would not stick together, but he left the edges uncovered and pressed them together; the tacky rubber welded automatically. Of his invention, Faraday said: ‘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.’

Balloons as Toys

Whilst we have Michael Faraday to thank for the creation of rubber balloons, he was not the person who popularised them and brought them into mainstream use. That title belongs to inventor Thomas Hancock.

Hancock’s experiments with rubber stemmed from a desire to make waterproof fabrics to protect the passengers on his coaches, being a coach builder at the time. In 1820 he patented fastenings for gloves, suspenders, shoes and stockings, but in the process of these early elastic fabrics he found that he was wasting a lot of rubber. He went on to invent a machine that shred the waste rubber, which could then be mixed with other materials. This eventually led him to distributing the rubber balloons as do-it-yourself kits which consisted of a bottle of rubber solution and a condensing syringe.

J. G. Ingram then went on to manufacture the first latex balloons that were unaffected by changes in temperature in 1847, and these could be considered the prototype for modern toy balloons. Neil E. Tillotson then went on to discover a way to make latex balloons economically in the 1920s, inventing a high-speed latex dipping machine that later made the invention of the latex glove possible.

Growing in Popularity

Mass production of balloons began in the 1930s and they exploded in popularity. In the late 1970s some more expensive, and longer lasting, foil balloons made an appearance. Made of thin, non-stretchable metallised plastic films, these balloons could be made into virtually any shape and were capable of keeping helium gas from escaping for many weeks, meaning they could float for much longer than rubber balloons. 

Balloons soon entered the world of entertainment. They could be twisted and tied to create animal sculptures to delight crowds – although the origins of balloon modelling are unknown. Decorators could use many hundreds of balloons to craft incredible balloon sculptures such as archways or walls for big events. By the 1980s, balloon kits were all the rage, with helium balloon kits being sold for people to create their very own balloon decorations at home.

If you’d like to blow up your very own balloons for use at your next event, at Fill n’ Away we have everything you could need to create the perfect decorations for any party or occasion. From helium canisters and wholesale helium balloon kits, we have everything you need to create fantastic balloon creations. Get in touch today and we would be happy to help.

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