The captive balloon at the St. Louis World's Fair
hoisted paying customers on short flights
throughout the duration of the exposition.

George J. Herwig Collection
from City of Flight
St. Louis World's Fair - 1904
from City of Flight by James J. Horgan. p. 63
     "The second permanent attraction was a captive balloon 12,000 cubic feet in capacity, attached to a cable three-fourths of an inch thick and 1,000 feet long. For a small admission charge, spectators were taken up in its basket and given a commanding view of the exposition grounds. The balloon was operated by George Tomlinson, Louis Winholz and Earl Pearse, assisted by . A. Roy Knabenshue, a young man who wa to make the most outstanding contributions to the aeronautic events of the fair, as well as Harry Eugene Honeywell, a Spanish-American War veteran who would later bwecome on of St. Louis' most celebrated balloonists."

via email from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-1-06
      I am searching for information about the George [L.? T.?] Tomlinson, the pioneer endurance flyer, first man in the world to remain in the air overnight in a balloon, who built and piloted balloons, dirigibles and then airplanes nearly a century ago. He apparently participated in a 1904 balloon race in St. Louis, perhaps at the World Fair there.
     I found articles about his 29 Sep 1909 flight in a dirigible from Manhattan to White Plains, Westchester Co., NY, 22 miles and about two hours in the $10,000 New York to Albany race, which was farther and longer than Thomas Baldwin in a dirigible and Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss in their planes managed that day. But nothing further, about his balloon or airplane exploits or himself--when and where he was born, died, married, parents, children, schooling, military service. .
.      Can you help? Refer me to knowledgeable sources? Thank you.
Sally Ryan Tomlinson

via email from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-3-06
      I have been making my way through the New York Times archives site and found this page 1 story 29 Aug 1904:

      Avon, Ill., Aug. 28--A balloon, supposed to be from St. Louis en route to Washington, passed over Avon to-day, going in an easterly direction, and dropped a card attached to a bun. The card fell into the potato patch of W.H. Case. Mrs Case found the card on which had been written: "Will finder please write and tell of balloon passing town or city, George E. Tomlinson, World's Fair Grounds, care W.E. Smith?"
     The ballon was seen by many citizens of Avon. It is estimated that it was more than a mile high, and was going at the rate of twenty miles an hour.

     There were long front page stories 21 and 30 Sep 1909 about the $10,000 Hudson-Fulton long-distance race from New York along the Hudson River to Albany between Captain Thomas S. Baldwin and "The second dirigible reached the city late today from Syracuse. It is owned by George L. Tomlinson, a manufacturer of that city who has been interested in aeronautics for several years and had made several balloon ascensions. The Tomlinson balloon was built by Capt. Baldwin more than a year ago and is the one used by him at Arlington last June. It has, however, been equipped with a new motor calculated to drive the machine under favorable conditions at the rate of 20 miles an hour or better. " (21 Sep 1909, NYT)

      On 29 Sep 1909 Tomlinson and Baldwin took off from near Grants Tomb, New York.
     George L. Tomlinson, who made his start a few minutes before Capt. Baldwin, managed to get as far as White Plains, being swept far out of his course. Owing to a bad leak in his gasoline tank he was forced to descend, making a good landing on the broad fields of Gedney Farm, the estate of Howard Willetts. . .Shortly after 11 o'clock Mr. Tomlinson's balloon, the envelope of which is 87 feet long and was made by Capt. Baldwin, was carefully brought from its tent to the narrow enclosure bordering on Calremont Avenue. Excited faces peered from every window of the tall apartment houses and the streets were filled with people. Mr. Tomlinson gave the word to let go at 11:36 and the balloon rose at once 300 feet in the air, sailing over the tower of the new Theological Seminary and passed out of sight about 1,000 feet up over the viaduct above 130th street.
     Capt. Baldwin's balloon. . .started off at 11:52. He headed more westerly than his rival, passing over Grant's Tomb, making a fine sight, as rising 1,200 feet, he made a straight line up the Hudson. . .Everything went well for Capt. Baldwin until off the Palisades opposite 197th street. He then dropped to an elevation of 800 feet. Suddenly a gust from the Jersey shore struck the balloon amidships, causing it to veer far to one side, the wind whipping the ropes around the running board on which the aeronaut stood. The breaking of a guard rail near the steering gear put the big ship out of control and Capt. Baldwin realized that his only hope for safety lay in dropping on an even keel upon the water. Balancing his weight along the frame of the car to maintain a correct balance and keeping his motor going, he allowed his ship to sink gently. A launch. . .put out from shore as soon as it was seen that something was going wrong, and by the time the aeronaut touched the water several additional launches from warships were on the spot. Capt. Baldwin nimbly leaped into one of them and directed how to keep the balloon afloat by grasping the drag nets. Except for the dousing of the motor the big airship was safely towed to land uninjured.
     Mr. Tomlinson remained in the hour about two hours, landing at 1:30 o'clock on the Willetts estate near White Plains.
      "I was running with the wind," said Mr. Tomlinson, "and expected to change my course to the westward when I discovered that there was a leak of gasoline as well as oil. As there is no muffler on my exhaust pipe I feared that the fire would set the oil or gasoline on fire, and for that reason I negotiated for a landing place. I sailed from the Hudson inland and did not know just where I was until I was told that I was on Mr. Willett's farm." Mr. Tomlinson found he could not repair his gas tank, so he packed up his car to be shipped back to the starting point.
(NYT, 30 Sep 1909)

via email from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-5-06
     At least twice, in 1904 and 1909, George Tomlinson flew further than anyone in the field, but didn't reach his goal or collect the prizes, although I gather he may have been paid on the sly.
     I think that I have identified him as George T. Tomlinson, born Feb 1876, Auburn, Cayuga Co., NY [or Syracuse, Onondaga Co., NY], died 19 March 1936 and buried at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn Co., NY, Greenwood 48, 5, with his parents, Charles and Isabella J., but I need to wrap up details. I haven't been able to track him between 1910 and 1936.

Tomlinson Gelatine
Baldwin Gelatine Blimp - 1905
Photo & Text from
Rosebud's WWI and Early Aviation Image Archive
       "It is generally accepted that in 1905 Thomas Baldwin constructed Gelatine, an airship with an envelope similar in form to Santos-Dumont 1903 No9 Baladeuce. Sponsored by the Knox Gelatine Company of Johnstone, New Yoik and first flown in San Francisco, Gelatine toured the eastern states after its lengthy exhibition in Portland , Oregon. - In Portland, Gelatine made a record-breaking twenty-three flights at the Lewis & Clark Exposition, held from June through to October 1905. As a result of a severely damaged envelope suffered by Baldwin's other airship, namesake of the host city; the gasbag from Gelatine had been fitted onto the framework and motor of the approximately 8,000 cu.ft. capacity City of Portland in early September.
     Besides Johnstone N.Y., Gelatine is known to ahve ascended at Ostego, Fulton, Montgomery and aschenectady Counties; and at surrounding centers, including Syracuse and the 1906 Central New York Fair in Oneonata. Charles Knox, who had amassed a small fortune and became well-known for his revolutionary marketing techniques, was the first American to use airborne advertising.
     One source however, citing Portland's own St. Johns Review of the day, claims the Gelatine was designed, built and operated by G. E. Tomlinson [sic] of Syracuse, N.Y.
     Purportedly similar to the City of Portland - but better designed - the original Gelatine is said to have had ailerons and a rudder for both vertical and horizontal control. Additionally, Tomlinson's airship was powered by a small 5 h.p. motor, and its oval-shaped gasbag contained a volume of 12,000 cu.ft. of hydrogen lift gas."

Editor's Note: You can find many additional images of the Gelatine on the same page by clicking on the title above. If time permits, I suggest you sample some of the other beautiful photographs which are available on this wonderful resource.

Airship Visits St. Johns
via email from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-6-06
     Thomas S. Baldwin, the designer and builder of the "California Arrow," a dirigible 52 feet long and 17 feet in diameter, which performed so proudly at the St. Lewis Fair, was persuaded to participate in Portland. He built a new airship for this fair which he named the "Angelus." It was a revised and enlarged version of the "Arrow," 65 feet long and powered by a 7 1/2 horsepower two cycle gasoline engine. It weighed 400 pounds and had a capacity of 16,000 cubic feet of gas. His aeronaut was Lincoln Beachey, a fearless lad of 18 years, who was said to have had five years experience at this chosen profession.
     On July 18, 1905, Beachey made a trip from the fairgrounds in the Angelus, the first airship flight in the history of the Pacific Northwest. The aeronaut stood erect on the gondola frame, moving forward or backwards to ascend or descend. There were no ailerons, only a rudder. This airship proved to be untrustworthy due to its small engine capacity and the periodic high air currents in this area. It made history in St. Johns during one of its unscheduled flights just prior to it's early retirement.
     The St. Johns Review reported on Aug. 4, 1905 that

"Just before 7:00 last evening the airship Angelus, carrying Leonard Beachy (sic), hovered over this city, with it's engine disabled. Prior to this the monster maneuvered in fine shape in plain view of a couple of thousand spectators. Willing hands towed the machine, still aloft, to the new dock where the launch Fox towed her to Portland. Another ascension will be made tomorrow afternoon".

This may well have been the last flight of the Angelus, despite the announcement.
     "The City of Portland," an airship of about half the size of the Angelus, was designed and being built at this time by Capt. Baldwin in the aerodrome at the fair site. This new airship made its first successful flight of 20 minutes on Aug. 19, 1905 and nothing thereafter was reported on the Angelus. Beachey referred to as the "boy aeronaut" stuck with his dangerous career until he was killed in an accident while performing at the San Francisco fair 10 years later.
     The only other airship at the fair, as distinguished from a balloon, was designed, built and operated by G.P. Tomlinson of Syracuse, N.Y. His airship, the "Gelatine," similar in design to the Portland had ailerons, and a rudder for both vertical and horizontal control. Its oval-shaped gas bag had a 12,000-cubic-foot capacity. It employed a smaller 5 horsepower single-cycle engine, and although better designed, it did not have a daring pilot. The Portland and Gelatine were scheduled to race on Sept. 2 but due to high winds, Tomlinson withdrew. Beachey took off anyway and was swept across the river into the Albina District. He got caught up in a tree and tore a 10-foot hole in the side of the gas bag. That was the beginning and the end of racing at the fair. (1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, Portland, OR,

     The New York World announced a prize of $10,000 for the first flight between New York and Albany. Two attempts by dirigible, one by Thomas Baldwin and one by George T. Tomlinson, had ended in failure.

     If you search for "George Tomlinson" +aviation -minister, using the Google search engine, (7-5-06), you will find about 39 links, one of which is very helpful

The First Aerial Canoe: Wilbur Wright
and the Hudson-Fulton Flights

John Sanford
Special Collections and Archives
Wright State University
     On this website of the Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, you will find a very interesting account of Tomlinson's participation in the Hudson-Fulton Flights. The page is devoted primarily to the activities of the Wrights and Glenn Curtiss, but it does contain an important account of the flights of George, as well as Captain Baldwin. It does have a photo of Captain Baldwin's balloon, which probably was similar to that which George flew. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

via email from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-6-06
     Here is how I identified George, young, Syracuse manufacturer:

     Despite all of his exploits George was not well-known. The New York Times accounts of the Hudson-Fulton 1909 race referred to him as George L. Tomlinson, but as George E. in the 1904 account from Avon, IL; in Portland, he was G.P. Tomlinson; even on his first census, 1880 Syracuse, Onondaga Co., NY, he had another initial, George D., aged 4, born in New York, recorded as a son of Charles Tomlinson, 42, a gunsmith born in New York whose father was born in Connecticut and mother in Massachusetts; Bell J., 40, New York, wife; other children Nettie A., 15; Charles E., 12; Joe F., 8; Rupert H., 6, and mother Eliza A. Tomlinson, 73, a native of Massachusetts whose parents also were born there. (Page 313D)
     Evidence that his middle initial actually was T. may be drawn from the 1900 census and the formation of a corporation that year.
     In 1900 Isabella J. Tomlinson, 60, born in April 1840 in New York of New York-born parents, owned a house in the 14th Ward, Syracuse, where her household included her son George T. Tomlinson, 24, born in February 1876 in New York, a manufacturer. (Page 183)
     The George T. Tomlinson Company of Syracuse was established in 1900 to manufacture guns and firearms; capital $5,000; directors George T. Tomlinson, Isabella J. Tomlinson and Charles R. Gray of Syracuse. (New York Times, 16 Jan 1900, 11)
     On the 1910 census, George Tomlinson, 32, born in New York of New York parents, single, a drygoods commercial traveler, was a lodger in the 15th Ward, Syracuse. (Page 188)
     George T. Tomlinson, 60, died 19 March 1936 and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn Co., NY, with his parents, Charles and Isabella J. Tomlinson. (Greenwood, 48, 1)

City of Flight
The History of Aviation in St. Louis
James J. Horgan
Product Details
Cloth: 500 pages; 6 1/2 x 9 inches
Publisher: Patrice Press, 1984
Used: $17.95
ISBN: 0-935284-35-4
     "From time to time, in the body of scholarly writing, there emerges a work of commanding importance. Somtimes this paper will do more than satisfy a committee; sometimes it will go beyond a noble contribution to the sum of our knowledge and will also entertain the reader. Occasionally it will be couched in plain, easy-to-understand journalism, designed to captivate a person with a sense of being there. City of Flight is all of this. James J. Horgan transports his reader into history; into the basket of the Atlantic, as the 19th century balloon crashes into the timber of upstate New York, a thousand miles after its takeoff from St. Louis. Into the Red Devil, as Thomas Scott Baldwin flies his flimsy biplane between the Mississippi River and the arches of Eads Bridge. Onto the struts of the Sky Cycle, as a 15-year-old boy pedals his little gas-filled dirigible over Forest Park. Onto Art Hill, to cheer the flyover of America's newest hero, Charlese A. Lindgergh, in his Spirit of St. Louis, in salute to the city which made it all possible. This is an epic set in the very cradle of aviation history - the City of St. Louis - now, as it was in the beginning, the City of Flight."
From the flyleaf

Liberal Arts Day - 1904
     "On Liberal Arts Day, August 27, another dual balloon ascension took place. The contestants were Carl E. Myers, with a spherical balloon 8,000 feet in capacity, and George Tomlinson, one of the operators of the captive balloon, with a 14,000 cubic-foot vehicle. Both were aiming for the Washington Monument in Wahsington, D. C., and were competing for a prize of $5,000, on the condition that the winner travel at least 500 miles and land east of the western boundary of Ohio.......
     More follows....
From City of Flight, p 69-70

George T. Tomlinson died 19 March 1936 and is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn Co., NY, Greenwood 48, 5, with his parents, Charles and Isabella J.,
Peersonal communication from Sally Ryan Tomlinson, 7-5-06

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this pioneer aviator,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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