Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A copy of the Jan. 19, 1913, Los Angeles Times with an image of the first Los Angeles Times balloon that flew away.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1913: The Times' second balloon hauled around Southern California to finish the aerial photography project.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1913: Photo taken of Covina from the Los Angeles Times tethered balloon and published in the paper on Jan. 1, 1914.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1913: Photo taken from Los Angeles Times tethered balloon of Azusa and published in the paper on Jan. 1, 1914.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

1913: Photo of Glendora taken from the Los Angeles Times balloon. This photo was published in the Jan. 1, 1914, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

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L.A. Times photo balloon floats away

With great fanfare, the Los Angeles Times announced the Birdseye View Expedition in its Jan. 19, 1913, edition:

“Times” land and air photographic expedition to make views from the sky of cities, towns, mountains, orange groves and places of interest–powerful machine on road to move gas bag while up.” …

It was urged that much time would be lost in providing at each stopping place an equipment necessary to operating the steel cable which holds the gas bag in place in the air.

This difficulty was surmounted by the expedient of riveting to the body of the truck a large spool, holding something over 1,000 feet of steel cable. A powerful Fairbanks-Morse engine, capable of operating the cable spool, was installed as part of the equipment of the truck. With this compact arrangement, it is possible to inflate the balloon, unwind the cable and haul in the captive sphere again without leaving the motor truck. …

The “expedition” floated along fine until the “captive sphere” broke free. The Jan. 28, 1913, Los Angeles Times reported:

Photographic gas bag breaks loose near Monrovia, bumps into mountain and throws pilot out. Then sails off….

A knot loosened by the pulling of the heavy wind and a balky valve rope yesterday gave Tom McLain, pilot and jockey on the big Times balloon, a perilous, mile-high ride above Monrovia, ending in a jarring, heels-over-head tumble into the chaparral on the side of Mt. Wilson, in which McLain had a wonderful escape with only a few bruises and a sprained thumb.” …

A frantic search for the gas bag failed. On Feb. 1, the Los Angeles Times offered a $100 reward for the recovery of the balloon. The Feb. 3, 1913, Los Angeles Times reported:

Stirred into renewed activity by the offer of $100 reward for the capture of the big gas-bag, “dead or alive,” mountain climbers and explorers, literally by the hundreds took up the trail of the truant of the air yesterday, …

But even after an additional sighting, the balloon was lost.

The Feb. 24, 1913, Los Angeles Times reported the expedition back up and flying following the purchase of a second balloon.

During 1913, several aerial photos were published. In the Jan. 1, 1914, Los Angeles Times, nine more balloon aerials were published. I’ve located three of the published images. They are in the above photo gallery.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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