In September 1871, a fifteen-year-old L. Frank Baum may have witnessed a hot-air balloon ascension in Clinton Square in Syracuse. Aeronaut C. C. Coe made a windswept ascension in his balloon New World, landing some thirty miles to the east in Oneida, New York. Whether the teenaged Baum saw the balloon for himself or merely heard about it, Baum scholars suspect that this event inspired the scene of the Wizard’s departure from Oz by balloon in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Hundreds watched as Prof. C. C. Coe of Rome, New York, launched his hot-air balloon New World from Clinton Square as part of an 1871 balloon race. Note the Erie Canal, crossing the square from right to left. At this time, L. Frank Baum was living in Syracuse, aged fifteen. If he was not among the onlookers, he surely heard of the celebrated event, memories of which may have inspired the hot-air balloon scene in The Wizard of Oz.