First Balloon Ascent in Minnesota

September 22, 1857- William Markoe, a St. Paul businessman, made the first successful balloon ascent in Minnesota. He carried one passenger in the hour and a half flight.

It took nine months to construct the balloon, which Markoe built himself. The envelope was 40' in diameter, requiring over seven hundred yards of linen fabric. The balloon was 70' tall when inflated. Originally planning to use hydrogen, Markoe ended up using coal gas, which was readily available. Markoe christened the balloon the "Minnesota."

The flight ended on a farm outside of Cannon Falls. With the assistance of the farm crew, the balloon was collapsed, folded, and loaded on a wagon and hauled to Hastings.

First Air Show in Minnesota

June 22-25, 1910-An association of the Minnesota State Fair and the Minneapolis Automobile Show Association contracted for the first air show in Minnesota, to be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

Glenn Curtiss and two other aviators were to be the performers. Dirigibles were hired to fly along with the airplanes and, on the ground, automobile and motorcycle races were scheduled. The real enthusiasm, however, was for the airplanes, as auto and motorcycle racing was already more commonplace.

Minnesota Aviation Meet
An advertisement for the first air show held in Minnesota. The "Twin City Aviation Meet" took place at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds between June 22-25, 1910. The meet featured exhibition flights by aviator and inventor Glenn Curtiss. In fact, on June 24, 1910 (the third day of the meet), Curtiss flew for more minutes in one day (25 min.) than any pilot had to date.

Aviation Firsts Logo

Glenn Curtiss, the first aviator to fly after the Wright Brothers, was the featured pilot. At 4:00 P.M., Curtiss took off. He reached a height of 50' and received huge cheer from the crowd. Strong gusts of wind forced the plane down at about 1/2 mile and the hard landing damaged the aircraft. It was repaired and Curtiss returned to the skies around 6:00 P.M. This time, however, the high winds caused the aircraft to hit the ground nose first and roll. Curtiss was not injured, but the aircraft was a wreck.

On Thursday, using a Hudson Flyer with a 50 HP V-8, Curtiss made a spectacular five minute flight, circling the grandstand and flying out to the northwest. When he landed, the crowd of 12,000 went wild. Nevertheless, Curtiss commented after the flight that "Minnesota has a fine climate to live in, but it is worthless for airship flying."

Friday, again the weather was hot and gusty, but Curtiss, in the Hudson, was able to take off and did some of the show's best flying. The first two flights were four minutes apiece. The third time he flew an incredible ten minutes. His fourth flight was seven minutes, for a record twenty-five minutes in the air in one day-covering 25 -30 miles.