1920 National Balloon Race

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The 1920 National Balloon Race was a ballooning competition launched from Birmingham on September 25, 1920. The race was a qualifier to select two teams to join current international champion Ralph Upson as the three American entries in the 1920 International Balloon Race which was also scheduled to be started from Birmingham in October 1920.

Eleven teams started the race; 4 U.S. Army entries, 1 U.S Navy entry and 5 civilian entries along with Mr. Upson's balloon. After 24 hours in the air, only 5 teams remained aloft. As the U.S. Navy entry crossed the Ohio River, it's trail rope snagged on a tree. With over four hundred pounds of ballast and equipment on board, the pilots decided cut the basket loose and continue with the race strapped to the rigging. Thirteen hours later, the team landed just short of Lake Erie.

The winner of these races was to be the balloon that traveled the farthest from Birmingham in a straight line (or more accurately by circle route line), regardless of variations from this straight line due to wind or other conditions. The winner was H.E. Honeywell. His balloon traveled approximately 680 miles, landing near Thamesville, Ontario. One of the army entries, piloted by Lt. Thompson finished second, landing along the northern shores of Lake Erie in Ontario only 1.3 miles short of Honeywell. Mr. Upson finished third, traveling 620 miles, landing near Amherst, Ohio.


  1. H.E. Honeywell, 680 miles, landed near Thamesville, Ontario
  2. Lt. Thompson/U.S. Army 678.7 miles, landed along Lake Erie, Ontario
  3. Ralph Upson 620 miles, landed near Amherst, Ohio
  4. Lt. Sloman//Lt. Rafe Emerson/U.S. Navy 615 miles, landed near Lake Erie, Ohio


  • "[1]" For Thirteen Hours We Clung to the Balloon Rigging (March, 1921) Popular Science