How Are Toy Balloons Made?
The balloons you see at the circus or a birthday party began as latex, the milky liquid of rubber trees. In the balloon factory, workers dip balloon-shaped molds into vats of brightly-colored liquid latex. The latex dries on the molds in the shape of un-inflated balloons.
The molded balloons are dipped in a talcum powder solution to keep them from sticking together when packed. Finally, the balloons are heated to make the rubber stronger. The finished balloons are peeled off the molds, sorted, and packaged. Most party balloons are made in Mexico.
They come in a great variety of sizes and shapes, but are most commonly 10 to 30 centimeters in diameter. Toy balloons are not considered to include “sky lanterns” (hot-air paper balloons), although these too are or were used as child toys in some parts of the world.
Early balloons were made from pig bladders and animal intestines. The Aztecs created the first balloon sculptures using cat intestines, which were then presented to the gods as a sacrifice. There are references to balloons made of whale intestine in Swiss Family Robinson (1813) and in Moby Dick (1851).
The first rubber balloons were made by Professor Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with hydrogen at the Royal Institution in London.
“The caoutchouc is exceedingly elastic”, he wrote in the Quarterly Journal of Science the same year. “Bags made of it…have been expanded by having air forced into them, until the caoutchouc was quite transparent, and when expanded by hydrogen they were so light as to form balloons with considerable ascending power….”
Faraday made his balloons by cutting round two sheets of rubber laid together and pressing the edges together. The tacky rubber welded automatically, and the inside of the balloon was rubbed with flour to prevent the opposing surfaces joining together.
Toy balloons were introduced by pioneer rubber manufacturer Thomas Hancock the following year in the form of a do-it-yourself kit consisting of a bottle of rubber solution and a condensing syringe.
Vulcanized toy balloons, which unlike the earlier kind were unaffected by changes in temperature, were first manufactured by J.G. Ingram of London in 1847 and can be regarded as the prototype of modern toy balloons.
In the 1920s Neil Tillotson designed and produced a latex balloon with a cat’s face and ears from a cardboard form which he cut by hand with a pair of scissors. He managed to make his first sale of these balloons with an order of 15 gross to be delivered for the annual Patriots Day Parade on April 19, 1931. The first colored balloons were sold at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fairs.