The rise (that wasn’t) and fall of the King of the Air

“Zelno, the balloonist, will give his first ascension Monday afternoon at Latta Park…. This afternoon he will drive through the streets and will thus advertise himself and his business.

“Zelno is known as ‘The King of the Air.’ He ‘laughs at danger’ and soars aloft with an abandon as to his personal safety that challenges admiration. He will, he says, give the best ascension ever seen in Charlotte.”

— The Charlotte Observer, Oct. 23, 1897

“The airship will be turned loose a few minutes after 4. Of course everyone will want to be there in time to see the start as well as the finish.”

— The Charlotte Observer, Oct. 24, 1897

“Crowds of people — the earth was covered with them — went to the park to see the balloon ascension.

“Four-thirty came and there being no evidence of balloon or Zelno, the crowd began to be a little impatient. Five o’clock came. Zelno, it was said, had gone to town for the balloon….

“Finally he came in a buggy with his business manager, drove around the track and halted where a large crowd had gathered. Still there was no sign of a balloon, and if there had been one, Zelno was not in condition to take the trip. The people got disgusted at the fake and left….

“The next time he advertises an ascension he had better keep his head clear.”

— The Charlotte Observer, Oct. 26, 1897


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