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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Up, Up And Away

Thaddeus Lowe's Balloon Ascent, May 31, 1862,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2011-0961.
One hundred and fifty-two years ago today, on June 18, 1861, balloonist Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, launched his hot air balloon from sites on the National Mall now occupied by the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Building, and the White House.

The launch, a culmination of failure and determination, was watched by first Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry. Lowe’s test launches helped demonstrate the effectiveness of his hot air balloon reconnaissance for the North during the Civil War. From the basket, Lowe could use a telegraph to communicate troop movements to the ground.

Henry, who advised Lowe on his work, encouraged the Union Army to establish a balloon corps within the army. During the war, the balloon corps conducted reconnaissance which included tracking Confederate troop movements and reporting on Confederate artillery, among other valuable information.

To find out more about this piece of Smithsonian history click here!

Courtney Bellizzi
Smithsonian Institution Archives

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