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Thaddeus S.C. Lowe

Thaddeus S.C. Lowe was an American aeronaut who attempted to cross the Atlantic and also introduced the use of balloons into the U.S. Civil War.

Lowe, born in 1832, was one of the early balloon enthusiasts who performed at fairs around the United States. His enthusiasm extended to his desire to cross the Atlantic by balloon, and he was able to obtain funds to construct several large balloons that were to be used for that purpose. However, none of his efforts met with success and, although he traveled many miles, the farthest east that he managed to reach was the New Jersey shoreline.

Thaddeus S.C. Lowe

Thaddeus S.C. Lowe introduced balloons to the U.S. military in the Civil War.

Credits - © 2001 National Air and Space Museum,
Smithsonian Institution (SI Neg. No. A-671)

Lowe saw the possibility of using balloons for reconnaissance in the American Civil War after he went astray and landed in South Carolina shortly after the beginning of the war. After demonstrating the capabilities for balloon observations and aerial telegraphy for President Abraham Lincoln, the president established a balloon corps under Lowe's command to provide aerial reconnaissance for Northern armies as well as to provide aerial telegraphy services. He was hampered, however, by the conservative military mindset and the corps was disbanded in 1863 when General George McClennan, one of Lowe's supporters, was relieved of his command.

Shortly after the war ended, Lowe moved to California where he continued experimenting with aeronautics and other new technologies.