Local balloon jump intended to help usher in 20th century

I was talking to my grandma about the Red Bull space jump the other day and she said she remembers a story that her mom used to tell about someone in Medford doing something like that. Any ideas, or is my grandma going crazy?

— Jackson F., via email

Jackson, at first we were having a hard time wrestling with how to break it to you that your grandma is going crazy, but then we had a research breakthrough, and it appears she is on to something.

After a painstaking dig through the dusty shelves of our historical library, we found, we think, what your grandma was likely referring to in "Images of America, Medford," by Kevin Keating.

For Fourth of July 1900, Medford planned a special new-century celebration, and a part of that celebration was local daredevil Professor Chris Nelson rising 5,000 feet above Medford in a hot air balloon and parachuting back to earth.

Windy conditions scuttled the Fourth of July launch, but Nelson tried again July 7 — with somewhat successful results. He made it 2,200 feet up before letting go and parachuting down. He landed on West Main Street, and apparently his trick was performed more than once locally.

Nelson's jump is not quite as impressive as the about-24-mile-high jump skydiver Felix Baumgartner completed during the Red Bull Stratos space dive, but it was a good jumping-off point.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.


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