Hardcover. Oblong small quarto. Measuring 11" x 7½". String-tied black cloth over stiff paper boards with "Pictures Tell the Story" stamped in gilt on the front board. Contains 43 sepia-toned or black and white silver gelatin photographs measuring between 2½" x 4" and 6" x 8" with captions. Near fine album with about fine photographs.
A photo album compiled by a member of a World War I Observation Balloon Unit and Signal Corps with the American Expeditionary Forces around 1917. The album follows the unit beginning with training in Omaha, Nebraska and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The photos include shots of the balloons passing overhead as well as aerial shots taken from the balloons themselves. They also include inflating the balloons with gas and launching them. Various staff members can also be seen throughout including Colonel Paegelou, one of the heads of the balloon unit. One of the photos reads “Goodyear kite,” another reads “Goodyear in portable hanger” and shows men standing around the large balloon stored under a canvas tent. One of the aerial views has been hand colored and shows a battleship below it. Towards the end of the album the aviator is seen with bi-planes and at air fields.
Observation ballooning had been used in military campaigns beginning in the 1700s. By World War I, observation balloons were extensively used by all sides, far more than in previous wars. According to historians, “positioning artillery observers on balloons, generally a few miles behind the front lines and at altitude, allowed them to see targets at greater range than they could on the ground.” The men in these balloons were the first to use parachutes, before implemented by pilots, as a means for escape. They were protected by anti-aircraft guns positioned on the ground. By the end of war these craft were being used at sea tethered to surface ships for submarine observation.
An interesting early look at military aviation during World War I.