Old Instructions on How to Make Sky Lanterns

Floating paper balloons or sky lanterns are popular in some areas, although I have to admit that I am scared that one would start a forest fire or light a house on fire. My own fears aside, I have seen them occasionally floating overhead during summer holidays.

The instructions below come from a newspaper published in 1912.

Notice Kids! Here’s How to Make a Balloon

A Fourth of July is a dark and dismal failure without at least one toy balloon illuminating the sky in the near vicinity of any little boy or little girl’s home.

But the toy balloons boys and girls like best have become so expensive that many people are forced to do without them. Now there is a way to have toy balloons for your children. First, get some tissue paper, glue, wire, a wood hoop and a pair of scissors.

The paper may be in several colors, and the gores cut from these pasted in alternatively will produce a pretty array of colors when the balloon is on its flight. The gores for a 6 foot balloon should be about 8 feet long or about one-third longer than the height of the balloon. The widest part of each gore is 16 inches. The widest place should be 53-1/2 inches from the bottom end or a little over half way from the bottom to the top. The bottom of the gore is one-third the width of the widest point. The dimensions and shape of each gore is shown in Fig. 1.

The balloon is made up of 13 gores pasted together, using about 1/2 inch lap on their edges.

If the gores have been put together right the pointed ends will close up the top entirely and the wider bottom ends will leave an opening about 20 inches in diameter. A light wood hoop having the same diameter as the opening is pasted to the bottom end of the gores. Two cross wires are fastened to the hoop as shown in Fig. 2. These are to hold the wick ball (Fig. 3) so it will hang as shown in Fig. 4. The wick ball is made by winding wicking around a wire having the end bent into hooks as shown.

Saturate the wick with alcohol and set it afire. The heat generally will inflate the balloon and send it into the air. A good way to insure the balloon reaching a good height is to build a fire on the ground, inflate the balloon with the heat from this and light the wick when it starts to rise. This will save the fuel to be carried to maintain heat in the balloon for a longer time.

Source: The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois newspaper). June 26, 1912.