Here's a story about man who lived in Cincinnati during the 1830s who happened to be obsessed with balloons! We are also sharing a delicious cocktail that has really nothing to do with this man... It was created over one hundred years later, but every time we make this drink, we're reminded of this crazy Cincinnati aeronaut.
Richard Clayton came to Cincinnati in the 1830s from England. Although he loved hot air balloons since he was a child, his profession was a silversmith, watchmaker, and clockmaker. (Note: I am very interested in silversmiths and watch and clockmakers. I studied jewelry and metal smithing in San Francisco and my Dad is a certified clockmaker here in Cincinnati!) Clayton built a stately five-story building for his business on the southeast corner of Sycamore and Second Street. He built and fixed time pieces, dealt in precious metals and jewelry and sold fancy goods. He also built hot air balloons out of a waxy kind of silk in this building. If you couldn't tell, he was quite the showman! When I read about him, I think of Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs...... you know, The Wonderful Oz in Wizard of Oz! His love for hot air balloons also reminds me of The Airmail cocktail.
Richard Clayton would make about 30 hot air ballon voyages in his lifetime. His balloon was called “The Star of the West" and it was spectacular! Souvenirs were made to commemorate his accents; two such objects are displayed at The Cincinnati Art Museum: a clay jug with Clayton’s balloon painted on it and a hand painted bandbox (both pictured below.)
Clayton would document every crowd-pleasing stunt, like the time he threw his dog out of the basket! (Don't worry, it safely parachuted to the ground unharmed.) On one flight, He made it all the way to Keenly's Knob, Virginia (now West Virginia), where he got caught in a tree in the middle of the night. The town named their post office after him.
On July 4th, 1835, Clayton attempted to fly to from Cincinnati over the Atlantic Ocean to deliver a package. He lifted up from an amphitheater located on Court Street (between Elm and Race) and flew northeast. Bad weather and leaks in his ballon forced him to land in Weaverly, OH (near Chillicothe), where upon he walked a package to the post office himself, making it the first unofficial air mail delivery!
Richard Clayton soon retired from being an aeronaut. He lived for a bit in Ludlow, Kentucky in the famous Somerset Hall Mansion. In his later life, he would travel back and forth between Cincinnati and Brooklyn, New York. He died in Brooklyn in about 1878 and was buried there.
Stop in to Japp’s today and we will be happy to make you an Airmail cocktail! You will always think of Mr. Clayton when you order an Airmail. Cheers!