From the Ross County Historical Society’s Facebook Page:
On June 16, 1910, Freddie Meyers of Chillicothe, Ohio went on an adventure he didn’t quite expect.
Cromwell Dixon was displaying a dirigible “airship” to a crowd of thousands who had come to watch its flight. He left the carnival grounds at 5:30 PM and headed down Paint Street, but by the time he’d passed the court house, it was apparent the ship was in trouble. The cooling night air had contracted the gas in the dirigible and he was struggling to keep it in the air.
He saw a vacant lot on Caldwell Street and decided to land there, but crashed into a fence, bending the propeller shaft. Dixon wanted to return the dirigible to carnival grounds without letting the hydrogen out of the gas bag. At a nearby grocery store, he purchased a number of clothes lines, tied them together, and then hooked them to the dirigible. The book Yesterday’s Pastimes, states:
“Next, a search was made for a small boy to put upon the framework to ballast the ship and young Meyers was finally selected for the purpose.
“The ropes were then let out, and the airship with the boy rose above the tree tops, and was towed up the street. All went well and the little fellow up upon the skeleton-like framework of the aircraft was the hero of the crowd of admiring urchins who followed along the street.”
According to the book, Freddie’s mother was “apprehensive” about her son being used as ballast, and she proved to be correct in her concern. Unfortunately, the ropes tethering the ship became tangled in a tree, and began to snap.
“Dixon was holding the other rope himself and strained every muscle to keep the craft in leash. The free end of the ship rose in the air, at a sharp angle, and the aerial monster tugged angrily, as though resenting the restraints upon it. For a moment there was a breathless silence while Dixon and his assistants were using every effort to keep the ship from escaping. Then suddenly, with a loud snap, the other rope parted. The ship sprang into the air amid the screams of the spectators. Dixon ran for a short distance beneath the rapidly moving craft, shouting, ‘Hang on, boy, don’t let go and you’ll be all right.’
The airship and the boy drifted over Carlisle Place and the residents of that part of the city, seeing the boy’s plight, shouted encouragement to him. In response, they heard him calling for help. Gyrating, pitching and slanting first one way, then the other, the ship drifted into the sunset. Automobiles, motorcycles, horses and buggies and pedestrians lined Western Avenue and rushed along the Cincinnati Pike.”
The ship rose higher and higher into the air.The postcard on which this image came to us says Freddie reached the height of 3000 feet, though that’s likely an exaggeration. The dirigible drifted out of town toward Anderson’s Station. There, it slowly sank down toward a wheat field, and when it was about ten feet off the ground, Freddie rolled out. He started to walk back to Chillicothe, but was met on the road by the stream of cars and other vehicles that had followed the dirigible’s course.
Dan DeLong, after seeing the boy was unharmed, jumped on his motorcycle and rushed back to town to inform Freddie’s panicked mother.
Freddie became something of a local hero after his flight, and newspapers across the country reported the story. The picture above shows all of the medals Freddie was awarded by local organizations.
One of the articles says the dirigible, lightened of its ballast-load of boy, rose back into the air and floated off, last seen headed west.