Who Invented Balloons?

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When you think of balloons, what pops into your head is likely the colorful rubber orbs that float around at parties or cross a door in an arch. However, balloons actually date back to the Ancient Greeks who used them to present sacrifices to the gods.

Early balloons were made of animal bladders and intestines, but balloons, as we know them, were first invented in 1824 by a British scientist named Michael Faraday. He used a rubber balloon filled with hydrogen and other gasses in experiments.

In the rest of this article, we’ll investigate balloons of inflated animal bladders, foil balloons, balloon modeling, and other unexpected balloons throughout history. I’ll teach you all there is to know about the balloon’s humble beginnings, fascinating evolution, and many uses. 

History of the Balloon

The name “balloon” likely came from either the German word balla or the French word ballon, meaning “large ball.”

The Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, and other ancient peoples commonly used the earliest balloons to create sculptures to sacrifice to their gods. These balloons made of animal intestines, stomachs, and lungs were dried and inflated to fill them with “the breath of life.” 

During and after the renaissance period, balloons were also a significant part of science experiments. Since balloons can hold and retain gasses, they helped scientists understand that air and gas have volume. 

This innovation led to other inventions and discoveries, such as the complexities of gravity and the composure of the earth’s atmosphere. 

Modern balloons and balloon decor are standard at birthday parties and other celebrations we attend. These orbs have served many purposes, from the first rubber balloons to modern toy balloons.

How Are Balloons Made?

Balloons, which come in all shapes and colors, are made of latex rubber. Latex beads are rubbery balls harvested from the Hevea rubber tree in South America, Africa, and Malaysia. When exposed to chemicals, air, or heat, the beads connect to form an elastic material to form a balloon.

Workers harvest the raw latex from trees, and at this point, it looks like maple syrup. This natural product is then shipped to various places for refining and processing into latex beads. 

The balloon manufacturers mix in additives and pigments for color to form the basis of the balloon rubber.

Then, they dip the latex over a mold that resembles a deflated balloon. When inflated, the resulting latex shape will expand to eight times its size and return to its former state once the air is gone. 

Who Invented the First Balloon?

No one knows who invented the first balloon, but it was likely an Aztec person who lived before the common era. At this time, the entrails of dead animals were blown up with air, forming all-natural balloons.

However, Michael Faraday, a scientist, made the first rubber balloon from the syrup of the rubber tree. Over time, more great balloons were created, from printed party balloons to balloon table decorations.

Aztecs and Balloons

Many people believe that the Aztecs were the first to use cat intestines and other animal intestines to form balloons. They used a sticky thread made from vegetable fibers that dried quickly in the sun to tie off the ends.

Once the organ-meat balloon dried, the Aztecs blew air into it and twisted the thread to produce an airtight seal.

Galileo, Torricelli, and Balloons

Balloons were also quite useful when performing science experiments with air and gasses.

In one of the earliest experiments, Galileo attempted to measure the weight of air using an inflated pig’s bladder balloon. He then performed a famous experiment on gravity by dropping two balls from a tower to see which would reach the bottom first.

Evangelista Torricelli later performed a series of experiments in which he attempted to measure the weight of air. His studies confirmed that air does have physical weight. This discovery was pivotal to the direction of early atmospheric science, and it’s all thanks to the balloon. 

The Montgolfier Brothers

In 1783, Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier invented the first hot air balloon made of cloth and paper. Their balloon flew over 5 miles (8.05 km), setting the stage for the hot air balloon industry.

The first hot air balloon flight | Palace of Versailles

Source: https://en.chateauversailles.fr

Michael Faraday and Balloons

While scientist Michael Faraday is best known for his invention of the electric motor, he performed many experiments on the effects and uses of various gasses, resulting in new applications for balloons.

He began his career as a chemist who discovered several new organic compounds. Using rubber balloons in his experiments, he was the first to liquefy a gas under controlled circumstances.

To perform his experiment, Faraday cut two pieces of rubber and pressed the inside with flour to prevent sticking. That was how he tested different gasses. His notes describe the balloon stretching and inflating to a transparent shape.

He also noted that they had considerable ascending power and were exceedingly elastic when he filled the rubber balloons with hydrogen. Since his balloons weren’t airtight, the hydrogen kept escaping, thwarting many experiments.

However, he was the first recorded person to discover that balloons can float when filled with specific gasses, which would later come into play in the party balloon industry.

Thomas Hancock and Balloons

In 1825, pioneer rubber manufacturer Thomas Hancock, an inventor, began distributing balloon-making kits. The kit consisted of a condensing syringe and a bottle of rubber solution. 

The rubber solution and a condensing agent, either turpentine or coal oil, are mixed with this kit to make artificial leather.

He patented the process of dipping molds in liquid latex or pouring rubber over molds to make balloons in 1830. Later in 1843, the rubber manufacturer Thomas Hancock patented vulcanized rubber.

J.G. Ingram and Balloons

J.G. Ingram of London was the first to manufacture balloons in 1847. By heating the raw rubber harvested from the hevea rubber trees and adding sulfur, Ingram created what’s known as vulcanized rubber. 

The curing process hardened the rubber into a form that he could use (and re-use) for balloons and other things. He used vulcanized rubber latex to form balloons for the mass market.

Balloons Enter the United States

By 1889, the famed Montgomery Ward store offered rubber balloons for sale in their catalog. The balloons were imported from Belgium and cost four cents apiece.

Charles Goodyear worked with rubber to form a more durable and elastic substance. 

He was unsuccessful until 1839 when he accidentally dropped some latex on the stove, and it cooked into a hardened form which eventually contributed significantly to tire manufacturing. In 1907, the Anderson Rubber Company began manufacturing balloons.

George Oenslager discovered in 1912 that using organic accelerators dramatically reduced the curing time of rubber, helping keep balloons and other rubber materials on the shelves.

Neil Tillotson and the First Modern Latex Balloon

In 1931, Neil Tillotson introduced the first modern latex balloon at a parade in Massachusetts. 

The “Tilly Cat” balloon was formed in the shape of a cat’s head and featured hand-painted whiskers. Mass-produced balloons in various shapes and sizes followed this Tilly cat balloon, with the first colored mass-produced balloon appearing in 1933 at the Chicago World’s Fair.

What Were Balloons First Used For?

The earliest balloons were inflated animal intestines used for sacrifices to the gods by ancient civilizations. Many early scientists also used animal entrails for science experiments with gasses. Early flight attempts involved thin fabric or paper fueled by damp wool.

When Were Party Balloons Invented?

You most likely couldn’t imagine a party today without balloons! 

Party balloons were invented in 1912 with the introduction of sausage balloons, those long, noodle-shaped rubber balloons for balloon sculpting that you can twist into shapes resembling animals. 

yellow balloon with happy face
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Source: Owlcation.com

Fun fact: Until a short movie in 1956 entitled “The Red Balloon” came out, all balloons were attached to a stick and couldn’t float on their own. The movie’s premise was to watch the red balloon as it followed a boy around. Before this short film, floating balloons were unknown, and today they’re the most popular latex balloon choice.

Balloon Timeline

As with most inventions, balloons have a timeline. The history of balloons is older than you may have thought, dating back to the 1300s. Originally, balloons were made of silk, paper, and cloth, while today, they’re composed of reusable rubber and foil.


The first rubber balloons entered the scene with Michael Faraday, who used two rubber sheets to form a balloon for experiments with gasses, specifically with hydrogen. His balloons were made of two sheets of tacky rubber with edges that he pressed together to form a pocket.

He coated the inside of the balloon with flour to prevent sticking, but he noticed that the tacky rubber stuck together automatically to hold the gas. 

Faraday noted that the balloons looked extremely elastic and transparent when filled with gas. When filled with hydrogen, the balloons floated upward.

girl with balloons in field of wildflowers
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Source: Dreamstime.com


In 1927, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade enlisted a puppeteer and artist named Tony Sarg to find a way to entertain the crowd of people who came to watch. He worked with Goodyear Rubber Company to create giant balloons of bright colors and shapes to delight the parade watchers.

These balloons were filled with helium and delighted the crowd. Afterward, balloons came to be associated with fun activities and festivals. This extraordinary spectacle naturally translated to parties.

Toy Balloons

Toy balloons became popular as balloon artists entertained partygoers with unexpected balloon animals, balloon teddy bears, and sea animals. Using long pencil balloons, which are modern toy balloons, balloon artists could create any shape imaginable by twisting balloon shapes together.

Another way to use a rubber balloon is to create balloon sculptures using balloon twisters and balloon modeling. Balloon modeling is one of the easiest ways to entertain for parties and festivals–all you need is balloons and an inflater. Flowers, trees, birds, animals– pencil balloons create any shape.


While J.G. Ingram invented latex balloons in 1847, latex balloons didn’t explode in popularity until mass manufacturing in the 1930s. 

After latex balloons hit the shelves, people could buy and use balloons for any festive occasion. 

Nowadays, latex balloons are the go-to symbol of celebrations. From cute balloon dogs to colorful floating party balloons– we all know that it’s time to party when we see one of these!


In the late 1970s, long-lasting foil balloons called “mylar balloons” rose in popularity. 

Mylar is a metallic-looking material that stays strong and retains gasses very well. This shiny film is less stretchy and permeable than rubber or latex balloons. 

However, the reflective surface is perfect for printed pictures, designs, or sayings. Lightweight and buoyant, the mylar foil balloons float with helium gas which remains in the balloon for a couple of weeks.

Today, these balloons are popular for parties and events, especially in decorative prints and fun shapes such as letters and numbers.


Water balloons are made of rubber, and they became popular in the early 1950s. The invention of these popular projectiles was an accident, but that accident proved to be a great innovation. 

Edgar Ellington used water balloons to address the problem of trench foot common in soldiers in World War I. 

Ellington covered a cotton sock with rubber to create a waterproof sock intended to protect the soldiers against the damp, cold conditions they faced in battle. However, the rubber he was using was not flexible or large enough to work when he stretched it over a foot. 

When the sock wasn’t waterproof, Ellington angrily pulled it off. Trying to understand why it wasn’t waterproof, he filled the stocking with water and threw it on a table where it exploded, splashing water everywhere. 

The exploding sock gave him the idea to market the exploding balloon to kids as a “water balloon,” which, as we all probably know, was and continues to be a huge success. 

Other Uses of Balloons

Over time, balloon technology has lent itself for other uses than science or celebrations. Balloons have applications in engineering, the space industry, and medicine:

  • Meteorological balloons. These weather-testing devices are petite, high-altitude balloons that NASA and science students use for repetitive, frequent experiments. These balloons allow them to study things like how wildfires affect the biomes of forests.
  • Balloon catheters. These inflatable catheters offer cancer patients a way to pinpoint radiation treatment directly on cancer. The doctor inserts a catheter with a balloon that holds radiation seeds. They deposit the balloon right at the tumor, leave it there for several days, and then retrieve the balloon from the body.
  • Engineering balloons. High-tech engineering balloons allow engineers to take atmospheric measurements and determine atmospheric buoyancy. Balloons can fly higher into the atmosphere than airplanes, high enough to show the earth’s curvature. 
  • Military balloons. In the military, balloons are helpful since they can provide real-time stratospheric measurements for military intelligence. Since balloons fly so high into the atmosphere, they offer a way to gather information by changing altitude at various intervals.


While the first balloon formed from necessity by using the entrails of animals for sacrifices and scientific experiments, the balloons today symbolize fun and celebrations. Balloons are used for everything from lifting people’s spirits in the hospital to celebrating a new baby. 

The Balloon Council, formed to promote smart balloon practices, urges sound environmental applications for manufacturing and using balloons. Today, the Balloon Council encourages people to use balloons to #liftupsomebody.