Al Mingalone, The Thrill Seeking Photographer Who Took A "Unscheduled, Un-scientific Ascent"

August 3, 2022

Man and balloons have experienced tumultuous relationships from the Hindenburg to Balloon Boy. For whatever reason humans, usually Darwin-award-winning males, remain fascinated with nearly killing themselves in the most creative ways possible. Apparently, for some, the thrill of involving gravity-defying, helium-filled pieces of rubber proves irresistible in their insane conquests.

The face coloring of the man inches from being thrown off the empire state building look spot on.

One of the earliest pioneers of the children’s amusement turned flying apparatus was daredevil/photographer Al Mingalone. His attempt in 1937 to suspend himself hundreds of feet in the air using only balloons laid the groundwork for many balloon-related escapades like Larry Walters AKA the “Lawn Chair Pilot" decades later. This is the story of balloon-father Al Mingalone.

1944 Newsreel / Earl and Jack of the Skating Earls skate atop the Empire State Building on a platform 87 stories up. Getty

The Madness

The Associated Press headline for Mingalone’s skyward exploration said it all, “A New York newsreel photographer went on an unscheduled, un-scientific ascent into the atmosphere today.” But to explain how the Paramount photographer ended up drifting thousands of feet over Maine, one only needs to look at his thrill-seeking history.