Down to Two?

The article in this attachment was published in the Indianapolis News June 7, 1909, two days after the start of the first Aero Club of America national championship balloon races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In a world that relied on central telegraph offices, news print and word-of-mouth to disseminate news the best information had it that of the nine balloons that had ascended from the Speedway two, the Indiana and the St. Louis III, were still in the air on June 7. This information was updated with a caveat at the start of the article which was obviously a last minute insertion telegraphed to the Indianapolis News offices virtually at the time the paper went to press. With obviously insufficient time to update their headline the paper chose to insert a not-fully-substantiated report that the St. Louis III had landed.
The remaining balloon, the Indiana, piloted by Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher with assistance from his mentor and the man who had designed and constructed the vessel, Captain George L. Bumbaugh, were still aloft but only for a few more hours. Despite being the last in flight they had not covered the most miles during a ride that was both harrowing (due to wild wind currents) and controversial due to decisions to descend to Earth for provisions and then continuing.
At the time of the report it appeared that pre-race favorite A. Holland Forbes in the New York was the likely winner, landing 375 miles away in Corinth, Missisippi. Like most of the competitors Forbes and his assistant Clifford Harmon were fired upon by farmers with rifles who were either intensely protective of their property or afraid of a flying object they did not understand. This report had the University City second at 350 miles with a landing in Tennessee. This would prove to be a confusion in communication and the University City eventually was declared the winner and credited with making it to Alabama.
The Indianapolis of Dr. Goethe Link and assistant Russe "R.J." Irvin were the clear winners of the handicap race just over the state line into Tennessee. The giant Chicago at 110,000 cubic feet capacity was second in that contest, landing in Kentucky and the Ohio logged a disappointing performance making it only to Nashville, Indiana after just three hours in the air. This article reports that of the two handicap trophies were awarded for different criteria. The Merchant's Association prize was  for distance and a trophy Carl Fisher donated was for flight duration.
Aside from Fisher's questionable descents and returns to competition another controversy was triggered by the claims of A. Leo Stevens that the balloons he prepared, the Ohio and the Cleveland, either were tampered with while on Speedway grounds or received inferrior quality gas from the Indianapolis gas company. The Cleveland's crew of Pilot A.H. Morgan and his assistant J.A. Wade were having none of it and asserted that faulty seams were the culprit to their balloon's inability to sustain altitude.
The other Stevens-built balloon, the Ohio, proved to be the first out of the event, landing in a cornfield owned by J.W. Holliday within Nashville, Indiana. The people there were delighted to see Pilot Dr. D.H. Thompson and his assistant Joseph Blake. Apparently the men had ditched their lunch basket in a frantic effort to cast off enough weight to stay above the trees they were passing below. The container crashed to the ground within six feet of a man named Ed Parsley and his wife of Bean Blossom Ridge. Parsley later caught up to the balloonists and pronounced that he and his family had eaten the food and found it to be the "finest supper" he had ever had.
The article also reports on the scene of the start of the race two days prior. The event triggered enthusiasm among Indianapolis men about joining the ranks of balloonists. The event's headquarters hotel was the Claypool and over the next day or so men visited the hotel to pursue constructors about building them balloons. The paper reported that the typical price of such vessels was $800 to $4,000.
As far as the start of the balloons goes, the weather was ideal and the balloons did not disappoint the spectators that had gathered at the Speedway. Those unfamiliar with ballooning may not have noticed but some pilots struggled more than others with their ascensions but even the departure of the troubled Ohio was described as "impressive." As the Indiana passed over the Speedway grandstand Fisher cast a large bouquet of American Beauty roses into the extended hands of those gathered - one at a time. Mrs. Lyman Treadway (misspelled as "Treadwell" in the article) contributed some fanfare to the departure of the Cleveland by releasing about 100 colorful "toy" balloons immediately following its ascension. Captain Thomas Baldwin stood high in the basket of his Hoosier balloon and employing a megaphone reportedly shouted to those gathered, "Bet your money on the Hoosier!"
The article also discusses the crowds and traffic in and around the track. While the Indianapolis Star estimated a crowd of 40,000 this Indianapolis News article suggests that there were 20,000 people outside the grounds and leaves the impression considerably less than that were inside. Through a mistake of placing the 50 cent gate at an inconvenient spot (a quarter mile from the main gate) the paper indicates that many people just parked their cars or horse buggies on Crawfordsville Road creating a massive bottleneck. Governor Thomas Marshall (who later served as United States vice-president under Woodrow Wilson) had been requested to perform as ceremonial starter for the balloons but was stranded in traffic and forced to walk the last mile or so with his wife and guests. His guests included best-selling author Meredith Nicholson and his wife, Eugenie Clementine Kountze Nicohlson, the daughter of big-time banker Herman Kountze. The Governor did not make it to the official's stand until most of the balloons had already left.

BalloonNews060709.pdf23.8 MB