Inflating Toy Balloons With Gas From the City Mains (Jul, 1930)

Inflating Toy Balloons With Gas From the City Mains

GAS from the city mains can be used to inflate toy balloons with the simple inflating device shown in the drawing above. Gas as it comes out of the ordinary jet has only a pressure of a couple of pounds behind it, which is quite insufficient for inflating purposes.

Secure an air-tight tin can and fit it with petcocks as indicated in the drawing. Exhaust the can of air by filling it with water, closing the top petcock to prevent air from rushing in when the drain is opened. Now turn on the gas and the water in the can will slowly trickle out, forced by the gas pressure. When the can is full of gas, attach the balloon to the top petcock and then turn on the water supply from the mains. The water will increase the gas pressure to 40 pounds. The water, therefore, must be turned on slowly so that the balloon will not burst from excess pressure.

To fix the shroud lines around the balloon, which are necessary to support the basket, take a board and fix two brads in it, spaced apart to a distance equal to one-sixth the circumference of the balloon when inflated. Blow the balloon up gently with your lips until it is rounded out to the desired size. A third brad is driven into the board above the other two, and this distance equals half the circumference of the balloon. The bottoms of the shroud lines are left long for attaching to the basket.

A paper drinking cup is used for the basket. When the balloon is inflated and its neck tied with silk thread to prevent the gas escaping, fill the basket with half an inch of water and take out a teaspoonful at a time until the balloon rises. When cast loose it will stay low enough in the air so you can observe it for a long time. Before filling with gas, it is best to dip the balloon in talcum powder to prevent scratches from pricking the rubber and puncturing it.

In inflating the balloon, the neck is attached to the petcock through the shroud lines, as illustrated in the drawing. Be sure that the shroud lines are hung evenly so that the lily cup basket is directly under the center of the balloon. This insures an even, steady ascent.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: December 27, 20089:35 pm

    Perfect for small kiddies. Yeesh.

  2. Charlene says: December 27, 200810:11 pm

    Dumbest idea of 1930.

  3. Dr Bob says: December 27, 200810:45 pm

    Reminds me when I visited my uncle’s farm.

    1) Fill a balloon with acetylene gas from the welder.

    2) Attach to a fence post about 100 feet away.

    3) Shoot balloon with pellet rifle from a safe distance.


  4. Jason says: December 27, 200811:30 pm

    This must have been before the addition of odorant to natural gas, otherwise – P.U.!

  5. Rick Auricchio says: December 28, 200812:24 am

    Jason, it appears you’re correct. According to WikiPedia, under Natural Gas:

    “Adding odorant to natural gas began in the United States after the 1937 New London School explosion. The buildup of gas in the school went unnoticed, killing three hundred students and faculty when it ignited.”

  6. hwertz says: December 28, 200812:50 am

    “This must have been before the addition of odorant to natural gas, otherwise – P.U.!”
    They still don’t use it in Morocco! My sister singed off her eyebrows one day when she was lighting the stove, the neighbors came by and they all just kind of had a laugh.

  7. David Brodbeck says: December 28, 20083:14 am

    Back then, in most cases city gas would not have been natural gas as we know it today. It would have been producer gas, a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. While natural gas is lighter than air, too, I don’t think you’d get as much buoyancy from it as is shown in this article.

  8. Robert Oshel says: December 28, 20088:58 am

    Natural gas now is generally regulated down to a couple of ounces of pressure at the meter for use in appliances, not a couple of pounds. Was higher pressure standard in the 1930s?

  9. Rick Auricchio says: December 28, 20083:50 pm

    I think the “couple of pounds” phrase is a typo or technical error.

  10. nlpnt says: December 28, 20088:38 pm

    “You’ll shoot your <> entire face off!”

  11. Al Bear says: December 28, 200811:03 pm

    And stuff like this started the shyster lawyer business/

  12. nlpnt says: December 29, 20086:57 pm

    OK, that was supposed to be;

    “You’ll shoot your eye out entire face off!”

  13. Bob says: December 29, 200811:14 pm

    This was crazy, even considering that it’s from 1930.

  14. mykeyfinn says: December 30, 20082:22 am

    ahhh for the good old days when stupidity killed and the intelligent could have fun with explosives

  15. LightningRose says: December 30, 20085:27 pm

    If that’s not crazy enough, I recommend methane bubbles.…

  16. Mike says: February 17, 20099:47 am

    They still use this technique in Turkey for balloons sold off the street. One night while sitting at a bar, we saw some idiot toss a cigarette butt near some happy couple holding a pair of these bombs and the explosion had us all about to dash under the table!

  17. Dave says: March 31, 20094:39 am

    I mean… what could go wrong!

  18. Nomadic View says: March 31, 20094:53 am

    Watching TV the other day, and I saw a documentary about a disaster in Texas during the 1930s, I think.. A school blew up, killing many many children. The cause was a leak in the furnace and it was one of the motivating factors for a law to mandate gas odorant in the natural gas supplies…

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