From Ohio History Central
A. Leo Stevens was an important balloonist and parachutist in the early twentieth century.
Stevens was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1876. He first flew in a hot-air balloon in 1888, when he was just twelve years old. Concerned about balloonist safety, Stevens invented the first manually operated parachute, and by 1902, he had designed and flown his own dirigible.
Recognized as one of the nation's greatest aviators, in 1907, Stevens became the lead instructor for the United States Balloon Corps. He principally trained members of the United States Army Signal Corps in how to fly manned and unmanned balloons. Stevens continued to train balloonists during World War I at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. Over the course of his life, Stevens made over three thousand balloon flights. He also made numerous parachute jumps, including one where he unintentionally landed on a church steeple in Montreal, Canada.
Stevens died in 1944. In honor of Stevens's contributions to parachuting, the Hall of Fame of Parachuting awards the "Leo Stevens Award" to an outstanding parachutist every year. Stevens illustrates the important role that Ohioans have played in aviation. With such important names as the Wright Brothers, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, and numerous others, Ohioans have been at the forefront of aviation history.
- Crouch, Tom D. The Giant Leap: A Chronology of Ohio Aerospace Events and Personalities, 1815-1969. Columbus: The Ohio Historical Society, 1971.