Lafayette, Ind., 1859. Credit: Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society
1859 Balloon Voyage Exhibit
Discover one of the earliest chapters of aviation history at Conner Prairie’s newest, permanent historic exhibit, 1859 Balloon Voyage. Experiment with the science and technology of ballooning, and travel back to the Lafayette, Ind. town square on the day John Wise launched his balloon 150 years ago. Discover how the balloon measures up against other methods of transportation by racing a balloon against a locomotive, steamship and ox wagon. Feel the excitement build as the future of manned flight becomes real and watch as Conner Prairie’s balloon ascends above the prairie! Then, soar 350 feet above Conner Prairie’s landscape yourself in a tethered, helium-filled balloon and see the world like John Wise did!
Flight School & Balloon Flight
Your Conner Prairie general admission ticket and balloon ticket pay for an adventure that goes beyond the thrill of soaring above Conner Prairie—you can join in on John Wise’s adventures and scientific breakthroughs in the Flight School! Here, you’ll build, fill, launch, navigate and land a model balloon.
There’s no steering wheel on a balloon, but skilled balloonists could sometimes control their direction by surfing the wind currents, now known as the Jet Stream. Try your hand at sailing model balloons into what John Wise called “Rivers of Wind.”
Load sandbags on and off the sides of a miniature balloon and see how Wise controlled how high his balloon went. Test your skills on an obstacle course and see if you can land on target without being able to steer!
Before you leave, make your own three-dimensional balloon to take home.
Conner Prairie’s 1859 Balloon Voyage will culminate in a one-of-a-kind adventure as you feel the rush of soaring 350 feet above Conner Prairie in a tethered, helium-filled balloon!
If riding the balloon or exploring the Flight School is not for you, don’t worry—1859 Balloon Voyage has an adventure for everyone. Your Conner Prairie general admission ticket takes you into the hustle and bustle of 1859 Lafayette on the day John Wise launched his balloon 150 years ago. Take in the sights and sounds of the Lafayette streetscape. See what other balloons and airships looked like in that era and peek in the windows of the Lafayette Drug Store, Dry Goods Store, Art Gallery and Print Shop.
While visiting Lafayette Gas Works, heat the coal, watch gas bubble into the holding tank, feel the sticky tar residue it leaves behind and inflate a balloon with the coal gas.
Pretend you’re sending a letter from the Lafayette Post Office to a friend on an airmail delivery balloon by sending it on a model balloon to Crawfordsville, then on a train to New York City. Or, imagine yourself as Wise’s co-pilot when you step into a balloon basket to have your picture taken!