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5 Facts About the History of Balloons

Why do we use balloons for celebration? What is it about balloons that makes us smile? If movies like Pixar’s Up have any sway in the matter, it’s probably because we just really love watching pretty things float. But there’s so much more to balloons than simple decoration. Here are 5 historical facts about balloons that you didn’t know you needed to know.

 

Valentines-day-red-balloon-heart-arrangementThe History of Balloons

While we couldn’t possibly imagine a kid’s birthday party without colorful balloons or Valentine’s Day without floating hearts that say “Be Mine”, balloons haven’t been around for very long. The concept for balloons was initially invented for transportation (like the hot air balloon) and military communication, not celebration.

 

The Invention of Latex Balloons

So when did balloons become a staple party decoration? In the 1840’s a couple of scientists, first Michael Faraday and then Thomas Hancock started playing with rubber, glued two sides together and inflated it–little did they know they had paved the way for a cultural phenomenon! The first commercialized rubber balloon came onto the U.S. market around the turn of the century. In 1912 those long noodle or “sausage” balloons popularized and people began twisting them into different shapes to look like animals.

multi colored balloon animals

Movie Magic Balloon Facts

The Red Balloon, the 1956 short film directed by Albert Lamorisse, played off the simple pleasure a balloon provides. The 34-minute film is simple, whimsical, and has a way of awakening the child in all of us. The film’s only special effect is the mechanism used to get the balloon to follow the boy. The Red Balloon also spurred a deep love for floating balloons in the US. Before that, balloons were manufactured on sticks. While you can still buy stick balloons today, floating balloons are still the more popular choice.

 

Environmental Facts About Balloons

Colorful balloonsToday, there are some misunderstandings about the environmental safety of balloons and how we should dispose of them. While the string of the balloon is not biodegradable, the latex balloon is. Mylar balloons, on the other hand, are not biodegradable. When these types of balloons get high up in the atmosphere they harden into a solid plate and fall back to earth, occasionally taking out whole power lines. That’s why Mylar balloons come weighted down. To properly dispose of a Mylar balloon, cut it into strips and recycle them. You can also re-use them for art projects. Whether your balloons are Mylar or latex, be sure both the balloon and the string are disposed of properly.

 

Helium Balloon Facts

A series of issues over the last 15 years have also led to a fear of a helium shortage since helium is needed to run MRI scanners and other important devices. Because of this, air-filled balloons have come back into popularity, replacing some helium sales (though the switch isn’t very significant). The balloon industry changes rapidly, and it’s possible the rules and expectations around helium will change again, and again.

While governments and environmental groups are discouraging people from buying helium-based balloons, the use of balloon material for other projects is completely fine. In fact, some of the most incredible artwork can be created using balloon material.

There you have it! The life and history of the balloon is an interesting one. Where will balloons take us next?

Come by our store in Berkeley at 1629 San Pablo Ave (510-525-1799) to purchase balloons for your next party! And check out our helpful balloon ordering guide first!

 

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