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As It Was: Daredevil Thrills Spectators, Parachutes from Hot Air Balloon

During its 1900 July Fourth celebrations, Medford featured a hot air balloon daredevil, Professor Chris Nelson.  For a fee of $125, Nelson said he would ride a trapeze attached to the balloon to an elevation of 5,000 feet, jump from the balloon and parachute back to earth.

Some 5,000 spectators from the Rogue Valley and northern California turned out for the daredevil act.  Nelson and his assistant, Professor Merritt, had everything ready, but wind kept the fire from heating the air sufficiently to inflate the balloon. 

A wave of disappointment spread over the crowd, many convinced they’d been cheated.  Nelson promised to try again. 

Some 1,500 spectators showed up the following Saturday. The balloon lifted off at 11 a.m., with Nelson hanging from the trapeze by his hands.  High above, he shifted to hanging by his feet, and then stood on the trapeze bar.  At 2,200 feet, the balloon was cut free, turned upside down, and plunged at a high rate of speed into a yard.

Nelson parachuted safely to the ground, landing on West Main Street close to his starting point.

Spectators got their thrills that time.

Sources: "Medford News: 1900." Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Ben Truwe, [from the Medford Mail, 6 July 1900] Southern Oregon Historical Society Files. truwe.sohs.org/files/news1900.html. Accessed 27 Jan. 2018.

Luana (Loffer) Corbin graduated from Southern Oregon College, majoring in Elementary Education.  The summer after graduation she was hired to teach at Ruch Elementary, where she taught for 32 years. After retiring, Corbin worked for Lifetouch School Photography and then returned to Ruch as an aide helping with reading instruction and at the library.  More recently, she has volunteered at South Medford High.