Balloons are the epitome of celebration and fun, but where did it all start? Who on earth thought of making stretchy rubber tubes and fill them with air?
Obviously, balloons didn’t always exist. But these well-loved decorations have an origin that you probably didn’t expect. As with most of our favourite inventions today, balloons were birthed from a happy coincidence!
Invented by a scientist
Initially, these rubbery sacks weren’t made to be party decorations; they were actually intended for laboratory use. The scientist, Michael Faraday, invented balloons in 1824 for his experiments with hydrogen. Prior to that, ‘balloons’ existed in the most unlikeliest of forms – dried animal bladders!
Faraday’s balloons were made by putting two thin sheets of rubber together. The rubber stuck easily to each other, so he put flour in between them except at the edges, so that the rubber joined only at the edges. His first balloons were not perfect, as air could still escape from it.
Later, rubber manufacturer Thomas Hancock improved on the design and started selling these balloons meant as toys in a do-it-yourself kit. Yes – if you bought a balloon then, you had to make it yourself using rubber solution!
The first party balloons
As people made more improvements to the balloon, the balloons became stronger and more elastic. It was the 1920s when a man by the name of Neil Tillotson started making hand-made balloons, and made his first sale of 15 balloons for use at a Patriot’s Day Parade. The first coloured balloons were sold in the 1930s at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Due to their novelty and colourful nature, balloons grew in popularity over the years, resulting in where we are now.
Varieties of balloons
Think of balloons, and the standard oval ones come to mind. But people have really gotten creative with balloons in the course of its years of existence.
The classic ones include long, cylindrical balloons used for balloon twisting, heart-shaped balloons, and bunny-shaped balloons. In recent years, balloons have received more makeovers, coming in all colours of the rainbow, even metallics.
You’ll also find foil balloons, which are well-loved because they can be made into practically any shape. With the manufacturing methods of today, many party stores are also able to customise prints on balloons for you, giving party balloons an even more personal touch.
Balloons for special occasions
Around the world, balloons have been used to celebrate occasions for a long time. In the east, sky lanterns have been popular in festivals, where they were released into the sky bearing one’s hopes for good luck. In places where rubber balloons were common, these were widely used at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and baby showers.
Today, you’ll even see balloons being used at public fairs, carnivals, corporate events, and more. No longer are they seen as toys or strictly children-only. Furthermore, due to modern production methods, mass-produced balloons are very affordable and readily accessible.
So, think you know all about balloons? Think again! The next time you drop into a balloon store for some graduation balloons in Singapore, or order wedding balloon decor, maybe you’ll be reminded of where they came from. And be thankful that someone found this happy coincidence!