Small archive of material relating to the business activities of an Indiana family of balloonists, 1890s-1900s. Comprising: approximately 25 photographs, mostly cabinet portrait format, several with ballooning content; numerous newspaper clippings, advertisements, flyers, stationery, trade cards, and other items of printed ephemera announcing the balloon ascensions; correspondence and contracts relating to ballooning displays at various fairs; myriad transmittal envelopes addressed to the balloonists.
"Marriage in Mid-Air! Thomas F. Grinley and Rhoda Lewis will... at Rockville, Indiana Get Married in one of Prof. Bob Hill's Balloons and make a Grand Balloon Ascension and Parachute Leap" (broadside). With Rhoda's brother George, the Grinleys ran a successful business in paid balloon ascents at fairs as far away as Rhode Island; contracts made with George E. Lewis show that prices for a display started at $35, while prize money in competitions was as much as $150. Once in the air, they performed acrobatics before parachuting back down to earth. "Always up with the times," in 1897 Grinley was capitalizing on bicycle-mania by executing balloon ascensions "on a Monarch bicycle." Other novelties included taking a dog up, and "liberating" chickens in mid-air. Photographs include three of airborne balloons (two with pilot dangling below), one of a balloon being prepared for launch, two seemingly of the aftermath of a crash, and several of Grinley and Lewis in costume. The ascents were not without danger: newspaper clippings report that George Lewis once rose to 10,000 feet and bled from the mouth and ears, while on another occasion his parachute cords snapped leaving him concussed and with a sprained wrist.