I seem to have an appetite for collecting unusual and bizarre stories. This happens to be one of them. When I tell anyone that an airplane flew across the Atlantic filled with ping pong balls they laugh, thinking I am joking. Well it actually happened. In 1936 the wealthy singer Harry Richmond and pilot Dick Merill crossed the Atlantic and landed in England with an airplane stuffed with ping pong balls. Harry figured if they had to ditch the balls would keep the plane afloat. I cannot find anyone who remembers this, and there is nothing mentioned on the Internet concerning it. I would find it difficult to prove if it were not for two items I have. One is a newspaper clipping stating that Harry Richmond had died and it mentions this strange flight.

Photo of actual Ping Pong Ball carried in the 1936 flight.

And guess what? I have one, maybe the only one, ping pong ball with their names on it. The ball is also stamped with the route of their flight. When they returned to the states the balls were sold I am told and the money donated to the Red Cross. While I cannot verify this last statement the relative who purchased the ball relayed the information to me. So, stranger than fiction, this one is admittedly difficult to prove. However take a look at the newspaper clipping, and the photograph of the ball. Trying to get a recognizable photo of it was not any fun. Believe it or not.

Above: Newspaper clipping mentions the flight.

Story by Wayland Mayo, website historian.

Home Page