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Balloon takes flight in Concord

  • A photograph taken by Kimball Studios in 1901 at the Concord State Fair along Clinton Street. N.H. Historical Society



For the Monitor
Friday, January 11, 2019

As the winter of 1901 had blown its last gust of cold wind and the Christmas candles were long extinguished, our ancestors toiled for the remaining weeks in great anticipation of a vibrant spring.

Concord was surrounded by a bounty of natural resources that provided the inner peace that we desire to this day. It was with these thoughts in mind that the people of Concord looked toward the sky in 1901, seeking a quick glimpse of the marvels that gently floated in the breeze.

The year 1901 found our nation a bustling place with many historic events occurring, some very sad moments that brought silence and mourning, and other events invoked fantasy in the minds of the young children.

We lost our 25th president William McKinley to assassination and the country grieved. Theodore Roosevelt followed him to the corner office and told all of us to “Speak softly and carry a big stick” from the pulpit at the Minnesota State Fair.

Pablo Picasso was just 19 years old and holding his very first exhibition in Paris, and Cy Young had just won his 300th game.

It was the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid that robbed a train of$40,000 in Montana and held the young captivated with their active imaginations.

From sadness to fascinating events, there was something for everyone in Concord in 1901 sure to capture the attention of all.

It was around the time Teddy Roosevelt spoke of that big stick at the Minnesota State Fair that Concord was preparing for their very own Concord State Fair on Clinton Street. This was a known event and people traveled from all over the state of New Hampshire to enjoy this festive time.

It was a wonderful way to forget about troubling events and enjoy our little city – the hotels, diners and stables were in full use by the generous patrons eager to line the pockets of the local merchants.

It was on Clinton Street on a wonderful fall day in 1901 that the Concord State Fair mesmerized all with the ascension of a great hot air balloon. Though balloons had been in flight since 1783, not many of them ever made the trip to Concord and most had never seen a real hot air balloon. In this field beside the country road, many of our ancestors witnessed this amazing technological marvel for the very first time.

The sport of the people that flew these balloons was viewed by many as very risky and the act of a daredevil, for many did not dare to venture into that basket and fly about like a bird.

The first hot air ascensions in our area took place in 1861 over the city of Boston, providing the first aerial views of the city ever. During this period, with the onset of the Civil War, hot air balloons were utilized by the United States military as a means of communication with primitive and limited attempts for use “bombing” the enemy.

A few short years later in 1903, the captive audience the hot air balloons held simply faded away. The reason being the Wright Brothers flight at Kittyhawk, history was changed and the memory of the balloonist floated into the history books. The fascination might have faded with the arrival of the Wright Brothers but the memory of that special year was forever held in the hearts and minds of the people of Concord.

Yes, fondly remembered and tales passed from one generation to the next. My great-grandfather was at that fair, taking a day of rest from the small granite quarry that he owned up on Rattlesnake Hill.

This day was indeed special to him for he had his bride from Ireland hand in hand and certainly a grand story to hand to the next generation.