F A Q
The most frequently asked question we receive is...
What is the story of the First Balloon Crossing of the Grand Canyon by Capt. J. Gallagher in 1879?
In the July 2000 issue of The Bulletin, Tom Carmony wrote this article:
One evening, while snooping around the dining hall at Phantom Ranch, I spotted a strange plaque through the glass window of the employee entrance door. It was about two feet by three feet in size and appeared to be made out of wood. The inscription read:
"To Commemorate the First Balloon Crossing of the Grand Canyon by Capt. J. Gallagher M. Otoole Feb 3rd 1879 God Bless Ireland"
I knew that hot air balloons had been invented prior to this date. However, this was even before the arrival of John Hance at the Canyon. I wondered how a chase crew wagon would be able to get to the balloon's landing site, considering the scarcity of roads on either rim at that time.
Warren Tracy, Manager of Phantom Ranch, was able to shed some light on the history of this odd plaque. Warren wrote:
"The sign you referred to has quite a history. A member of my staff is from Paris. Her sister found it discarded in a dumpster in downtown Paris and sent it to us several years ago. I have attempted to research the names on the sign to see if there was any truth to it. However, I haven't made any progress."
"I haven't had the chance to examine the plaque for age. Nevertheless, I suspect that this is either a spoof or there may have been another place called the Grand Canyon somewhere in Europe. Does anyone have additional information about this plaque?
In 2005, we have received another bit of information from a gentleman in the United Kingdom with the same last name that is on the plaque. Here is his email from January 5, 2005:
Hi, I also saw one of the plaques in the UK about the crossing of the Grand Canyon by Capt. J. Gallagher. This intrigued me as I am a Gallagher and on finding your site and the information outlined, I dug a little deeper and found this:
Grand Canyon du Verdon – This is in France at a length of 21km and a maximum depth of 700 meters.
I have not, however, been able to verify Captain Gallagher's balloon exploits.
Tom Gallagher, United Kingdom