Mary H. Myers (1849–1932)
From Into the Blue: American Writers on Aviation and Spaceflight
In the late nineteenth century “Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut” (Mary Hawley Myers to her friends) was one of the most famous balloonists in America.
In vehicles designed by her husband, she made dozens of spectacular trips, to the pleasure and awe of tens of thousands of spectators; more than 150,000 showed up to watch one flight over Coney Island. Myers was no trick performer of mid-air acrobatics; instead, she was known internationally for her navigational feats. In Franklin, Pennsylvania, she went up in a new lightweight balloon that used natural gas instead of hydrogen. While she was fixing a faulty valve, her balloon rose to an unexpected height. If her aneroid barometer was working correctly, she reached an altitude of 21,000 feet—a world record for a natural-gas balloon. “My eyes bulged out, the blood ran from my nose, my ears rang, and my cheeks flapped in and out like sails,” she reported. Her “breath came in short, convulsive gasps,” but she managed to remain conscious and returned to land safely.
She was reluctant to take passengers, but a reporter convinced her to take him along for a flight. Soon after the launch she turned toward him and realized he was trying to climb out of the basket. “I grabbed him, threw him into the bottom of the car and tied him up with the anchor rope.”
Midway through her decade-long career, Myers wrote a short yet fascinating memoir of her exploits to date. One episode describes an early expedition — directly into a storm. Things did not go as planned. We present her account as our (always free!) Story of the Week selection.