A Second Coming of Jesus

The article in this attachment was published in the Indianapolis News June 8, 1909, three days after the start of the first Aero Club of America national championship balloon races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As noted in my summary of the same newspaper's coverage of the previous day, the world at the time relied on central telegraph offices, news print and word-of-mouth to disseminate news. News moved much slower than the speed of light we are accustomed to in today's global environment. Finally, though, with the confirmed retirement of the last balloon, the Indiana, officials could concentrate on analyzing results.
The biggest challenges centered on the two St. Louis-based balloons and Carl Fisher's controversial flight with the Indiana. As of this report it was still unclear how Aero Club of America officials would rule on two "landings" Fisher and his assistant and mentor Captain George L. Bumbaugh made where they descended to just above the ground to replenish water supplies. The other issue was even more significant as it determined the outcome of the primary award of the race - the national championship trophy based on distance. There was a confusion in communication when the landing location of the St. Louis III was given two different names - Blanche, Tennessee and Kelso, Tennessee - both in Lincoln County of that state. Apparently the St. Louis III landed in Blanche but filed their report from Kelso. Someone associated with the balloon race assumed that the two locations meant the two St. Louis-based balloons had landed in the same county, in fact, only 10 miles apart.
To the credit of the St. Louis III crew - Pilot Albert Bond Lambert and assistant H.E. Honeywell - they discovered the error and filed a report that the University City of Pilot John Berry and assistant Paul McCullough had landed elsewhere. That elsewhere turned out to be in the vicinity of Ft. Payne, Alabama near Lookout Mountain. That meant that, according to the attached article, the University City had traveled 365 miles to the 353 covered by the New York did in reaching Corinth, Mississippi.
With respect to Fisher the controversy over his near landings raised questions about the endurance award he had ironically donated for the event but also the American record for hours aloft in a balloon. That record, established in 1907 by the highly revered Afred LeBlanc, was 44 hours. If Fisher's close brushes with the ground were disregarded the Indiana's flight duration was 48 and one half hours - busting LeBlanc's mark by a healthy margin. Fisher was insistent he had not landed.
The article updates news about the efforts of perhaps the two most experienced pilots, A. Holland Forbes of the New York and Captain Thomas Baldwin of the Hoosier. Baldwin apparently had the anchor in his drop rope become entangled in a tree and could not extract himself. Forbes had a very competitive flight and had for a time appeared the winner until the confusion over the landing location of the University City was reconciled.
The article also spends time discussing the surprise success of the relatively inexperienced Dr. Goethe Link and his assistant, Russe "R.J." Irvine. Dr. Link was an Indianapolis surgeon with a passion for aviation. As competitors in the Aero Club of Indiana handicap race the easily out-distanced their rivals to capture both the distance and duration trophies for that event. Landing in Westmoreland, Tennessee a church congregation were among the first to spot the giant orb descending from the heavens and judged it to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Their level of disappointment is not reported but they were said to be gracious hosts for their unexpected guests. Certainly far more accommodating then farmers Dr. Link and Mr. Irvin encountered while traversing the clouds above Kentucky where they became the subject of target practice for those hoisting rifles on the ground. The reasoning of the shooters remains a mystery but it is conceivable that in those remote locations a balloon could easily be interpreted as a terrifying and inexplicable invader to their space.
The conclusion of the article provides a summary of the competitors including the mileage covered and the duration of their flights. Unfortunately the copy is blurry and difficult to read for at least a couple of the competitors.

BalloonNews060809.pdf2.93 MB