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Mary Myers

Mary Myers

American professional ballonist
Mary Myers
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American professional ballonist
A.K.A. Mary Breed Hawley Myers, Mary Bred Hawley Myers
Was Aviator Pilot Aircraft pilot Balloonist
From United States of America Georgia
Type Military
Gender female
Birth 1 August 1849, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 1 August 1932, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA (aged 83 years)
Star sign Leo
The details (from wikipedia)


Mary Myers (also, Mary Breed Hawley Myers and Mary Bred Hawley Myers; 1849–1932) was a professional balloonist, better known as "Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut." She was the first of American women aviation pioneers to solo fly a lighter-than-air passenger balloon and set many records for balloon flights.

Myers ran a business of manufacturing and selling passenger airship balloons and high altitude weather balloons with her husband. She and her husband obtained several patents on aerial navigation devices and promoted these through exhibition demonstrations at county fairs and town shows. Their balloons and related equipment they made at their "balloon farm" in Frankfort, New York.

Early life and characteristics

Myers was born Mary Breed Hawley in August 1849 in Breed's Hill in Boston. She descended from the family lines with the surnames of Breed (from the state of Massachusetts) and Hawley (from the state of Connecticut). She had blonde hair.

Mid life and career

Carl Edgar Myers, circa 1903

Myers married Carl Edgar Myers on November 8, 1871, in Hornellsville, New York. Her husband, Carl, was a scientist and an aeronautical engineer. He was born in 1842 at Fort Herkimer, New York. He was at one time or another a banker, carpenter, chemist, electrician, mechanic, photographer, plumber, printer, and writer. At about the age of 40 her husband devoted his full attention to aeronautical engineering and designing passenger balloon airships.

Myers' husband, Carl, had schooling from a scientist and developed an interest in what was known at the time as "aerial navigation", the flying in the sky air currents by a person in a large balloon with a gondola basket hanging under. Myers and her husband invented new or improved systems for producing lighter-than-air gases and constructed hydrogen balloons that were controllable "airships". Their airships included an aërial velocipede sky-cycle that Myers flew often and gas weather balloons for the U.S. government.

Myers and her husband patented a fabric for holding hydrogen gas in a large outdoor balloon and from this they became designers of floating passenger balloons. At first they hired experienced aeronaut test pilots to fly their new designs of balloon assemblies. When they couldn't get a test pilot to fly a new design, they did the flying themselves. Myers was an assistant lab technician and the business secretary-bookkeeper.


Agricultural Fair poster

Myers developed an interest in wanting to become a test pilot aeronaut herself after watching her husband fly successfully. She decided not to use her plain dull real name of "Mary" for her flying performances and took on the more romantic and exotic stage name of "Carlotta." It is not known for sure who picked the derivative of her husband's name, but seems that her husband Carl had some influence in choosing the name. She ultimately became known professionally as "Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut,""Carlotta Myers-Lady Aeronaut," and "Carlotta / Mrs. Carl Myers." Myers helped develop with her husband lighter-than-air balloons that used lower cost natural gas, that at the time was considered America's modern fuel.

The first flight that Myers did was from Little Falls, New York, on July 4, 1880. It was done in sight of 15,000 spectators. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when she stepped into the gondola basket that was the bottom part of the balloon apparatus assembly. She wore a blue flannel suit and a sailor's hat, all which gave her a boyish appearance. Her lifting off moment was synced with a carrier pigeon that was thrown out of the balloon when the ground crew released the balloon gondola basket. The pigeon carried a message to her friends and neighbors in Mohawk, New York, where she lived that her balloon ascent had just started. She rode for about a half-hour some 20 miles to the town of Stratford, New York. There she landed safely in a farmer's field. After she packed up her balloon, the farmer's son gave her a ride back to Little Falls. There she then took a train back to Mohawk where she lived. She was hired after this to take tourists on balloon rides in Saratoga Springs, New York and throughout upstate New York.

Myers controlled flight direction by the use of barometer and altitude readings. She used recordings of previous flights to know at what altitude she would encounter certain air currents. She then used these particular air currents to navigate with. Myers would go higher or lower by the control of valves that controlled the hydrogen gas and by sandbag weights. She then navigated to the desired air current which would take her to her destination. Her balloon airship was also navigable by the shift of her weight and by fin rudder apparatuses exposed to the air currents.

Not all of her flight ascensions were safely accomplished. A newspaper clipping describes one of her exciting and anxious aerial adventures. The demonstration event at the Chenango county fairgrounds at Norwich, New York, on September 9, 1880, went smoothly at first. Her balloon named "Aerial" had ascended quickly upon liftoff and rose above the trees and house-tops. When it obtained several thousand feet altitude she encountered rain. The accumulation of water in her open gondola caused extra weight and her balloon started dropping fast. She jettisoned overboard her ballast sandbags, but to no avail. Her balloon gondola started dragging on the tree tops and eventually got lodged upon the top of a basswood tree – eighty feet off the ground. Hunters nearby saw her and came to the damsel's rescue. They obtained a long ladder from a farmer and went to the top of the tree where she was stuck for over an hour in a down-pour rain storm. After cutting down several branches they were able to rescue her, unharmed.

Another incident that did not go well was when Myers, who had already flown 179 times, ascended in her balloon called the "Flying Cloud" on July 2 of 1883. It broke open at an altitude of two miles because it had been previously damaged by a crowd of some 20,000 people that pressed too close to the balloon when it was being demonstrated prior on the ground. She saved herself by floating on the balloon fragments as a quick makeshift parachute that carried her on a twelve-mile slated course that slowly descended to the ground.

Balloon farm and business

"Balloon Farm" in Frankfort, New York

Myers and her husband set up a successful business of making and selling hydrogen balloons from their five-acre farm in Frankfort, New York. The property where the business was came with a three-story 30 room Victorian style house. The house was previously constructed and owned by businessman Frederick Gates of the local Gates Match Factory that was associated with the Diamond Match Company. The mansion was originally built in 1878. After Myers' husband purchased the property in 1889 he converted a portion of the house to shop facilities for manufacturing lighter-than-air passenger balloons.

The farm mansion shop facilities had a sewing room to make balloon fabric, a chemical lab for the varnishes needed for sealing the fabric, basement equipment for making lighter-than-air hydrogen gas, a printing press for advertising, a carpentry shop for the gondola baskets, and a machine shop for metal parts. Their half inflated balloons on the property where the fabric was being processed looked like giant mushrooms and gave the impression that they were growing balloons on their farm as an unusual agricultural crop, hence the name "balloon farm."

Myers and her husband not only designed and made passenger balloon airships, but also built-to-order balloons. One of their customers was the United States Weather Bureau who ordered scientific balloons that helped on their weather forecasting. Another made-to-order balloon was for the US government that was used in experiments to make rain. Additionally they also made military balloon equipment for the United States Army Signal Corps that was used for the Spanish–American War. Myers had a flight school at their farm home for flying lessons on passenger balloons. Myers performed many aerial demonstrations nationwide as a successful business with the balloons. Myers and her husband's typical schedule was to arrive at a place around noon to unpack their equipment and set up. Once at the venue, they produced the hydrogen gas needed to inflate the balloon. They orchestrated all that was needed to manage a flight demonstration and afterwards packed the balloon and equipment, clearing the town area for whatever they had planned for later evening events (i.e. dancing, band).

Myers did hundreds of out-of-town balloon demonstrations from 1880 to 1891, bringing in large audiences and huge crowds wherever she went. In her career she carried over a hundred thousand passengers aloft in a balloon, mostly on tethered short rides. A common exhibition she did throughout Pennsylvania was on Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations. Myers even did jumps out of these high altitude balloons, which made her "Carlotta, the most daring lady aeronaut in the world."


Myers balloon guiding apparatuses

Myers helped contribute to her husband's inventions. The Louisiana Democrat newspaper of Alexandria, Louisiana, reported on July 11, 1885, that Myers had obtained several patents pertaining to passenger balloons. Some in particular described were guiding and steering apparatuses for passenger balloons. These were rudder and steering devices consisting of collapsical parts that could be opened and exposed to the air currents for navigation. Myers had used her inventions in over 150 flights she did.

The passenger gondola platform was described as made of expandable hammock netting surrounding the passenger. She describes the navigation and steering capabilities of the airship through the shorting and lengthening of the gondola hammock netting mesh and a cloth screw propeller that would push her along like a boat propeller.

Another of the steering devices was described as a 5-foot hoop, like a lady's fan, connected to the balloon platform back by cords. The interaction of the guiding apparatus was described by Myers as that of a rudder on a light boat in water, where the balloon itself tipped and changed its plane level side-to-side depending on the positioning of the hoop steering device. She describes it as altering the aerodynamics of the balloon airship. Myers compares the hoop to that of a rudder in the stern of a boat and as having the same or similar characteristic results. Her passenger balloon airship could be further manipulated for navigation by stepping on the edges of the gondola platform and warping the edges.


  • Myers is the first woman of the United States to fly and pilot her own aircraft, which was a lighter-than-air passenger balloon.
  • Myers set an altitude world record for a passenger balloon, going four miles high (20,000 feet) in a balloon that held natural gas in its envelope. This accidental flight took place in 1888 in Franklin, Pennsylvania. She did this without oxygen assistant equipment.
  • Myers set a record for the highest number of one-woman piloted balloon trips ever done in the 19th century, more than all others combined.
  • Myers made more balloon flights than any man in America by the time she retired in 1891.

Later years

Myers retired in 1891. She and her husband were at the "Balloon Farm" until 1910, when they sold the property. They then moved to Atlanta, Georgia to live with their daughter, Elizabeth "Bessie" Aerial. Myers' husband died in 1925 at the age of 83 and she died in 1932.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 19 Jul 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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