Balloon mail


Balloon mail

Balloon mail refers to the transport of mail (usually for weight reasons in the form of a postcard) carrying the name of the sender by means of an unguided hydrogen or helium filled balloon. Since the balloon is not controllable, the delivery of a balloon mail is left to good fortune; often the balloon and postcard are lost. A found balloon should be returned to the sender (by conventional post) with an indication of the discovery site, so that the sender can determine how far their balloon flew. Frequently balloon mail is sent as part of a balloon competition.

Besides racing, balloon mail has been used for spreading information and propaganda materials, in particular for spreading propaganda to the population in countries with dictatorial governments. A balloon can be released from outside the sphere of influence of these governments and, wind permitting, can travel several hundred kilometers.

During the siege of Paris from 23 September 1870 to 22 January 1871, 65 unguided mail balloons were released in besieged Paris to communicate with the world beyond the besieging forces, of which only two went missing. The special balloon postcards were 10 x 7 cm, and were manufactured of thin green paper, subject to a maximum weight of 4 g. The postcards carried an address, and it was hoped that the finder of a balloon would forward the mail by conventional means. Twenty cents were charged for postage (more if the destination lay outside France).


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