A Hydrogen Balloon Takes off from NYC’s Wanamaker’s Department Store in 1911

In 1911, Wanamaker's launched a hydrogen balloon off its department store at Astor Place to be landed in Philadelphia. Things didn't go as planned though.

If you’re a period drama fan who loves shows like Mad Men and Mr. Selfridge, you’ve learned that department stores used to go all-out in terms of publicity stunts. In the first season of Mr. Selfridge’s, we saw Harry Gordon Selfridge bring in the aircraft and pilot who made the first flight across the English Channel, a star ballerina, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

The New York City department stores were also getting over-the-top displays, as The Bowery Boys reported last week. In 1911, Wanamaker’s launched a hydrogen balloon off its department store at Astor Place to be landed near the store’s flagship location in Philadelphia. Things didn’t go as planned though, according to the Bowery Boys because “Instead of floating southwest, it headed due north. After an hour and a half of wandering blindly through the clouds, the balloon ungraciously came down — in Nyack, New York.”

Wanamaker Hydrogen Balloon-Astor Place-NYC-1911

Though the balloon never made it to Philadelphia, Wanamaker’s still got the publicity it wanted when the balloon ended up on to the front page of newspapers. People even started dreaming of more aerial stations on New York City’s rooftops.

Read more about the stunt on Bowery Boys and about the flight school that was on the roof of Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Check out the Empire State docking station for zepellins previously covered on Untapped Cities. 

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