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Who Invented the Party Balloon?

Hint: He was one of England's foremost inventors -- best known for his achievements in the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. (Sorry if you were thinking party clown.)

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Photography by: Sang An

The earliest forms of the balloon were actually made out of dried animal intestines. Now that's a party!

 

The rubber balloon wasn't discovered until 1824 by accident. At the time, Professor Michael Faraday was experimenting with hydrogen and raw rubber at the Royal Institute of London.

 

This raw rubber, which he referred to as "caoutchouc" in his report, became a surprising container of gases. In the published Quarterly Journal of Science, he describes the process: "The caoutchouc is exceedingly elastic," he wrote in astonishment. He figured that if the rubber was cut into cut sheets about an eighth or a tenth of an inch thick, it "can then be applied to almost any purpose..."

 

To show this, he took two sheets of raw rubber, lined the middle with a fine powder like flour to provide a pocket for gas, joined the edges, and tied the end in twine. When expanded with hydrogen, these rubber bags transformed into "balloons with considerable ascending power." Hardly a year later, he was selling DIY balloon-making kits in the public market. Stateside, the early 1900s saw a balloon boom -- the air-filled orbs were being sold at state fairs and circuses, and eventually became the iconic party decoration that makes us smile today.

Did you know that you can paint on balloons using regular craft paint? Our associate crafts editor Erin Furey shows you how personalize your party however you like:

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