Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Professor Lowe's Balloon in Fair Oaks, Virginia

This photograph was taken in May, 1862 near Fair Oaks Virginia. This is another picture of Professor Lowe's balloon, the Intrepid. Like the earlier picture, this one has a number of men on the ground. It looks like it took a dozen or so people to support the balloon launch.

16 comments:

  1. What's that big puffy thing on the ground next to the balloon??

    And . . . where's Dorothy? We don't want the Professor to take off without her!

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  2. For those interested the Signal Center @ Ft. Gordon, GA has a nice museum of Signal history.

    http://www.gordon.army.mil/ocos/historian/histcorps.asp

    http://www.gordon.army.mil/ocos/museum/

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  3. SmartGirl,
    There are actually two balloons . . . they are transfering gas from the one on the ground, to the Intrepid. I would imagine they tried to reuse the gas when possible.
    PJM

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  4. So, what were hot air balloons used for? Novelty? Actual air travel? Since this was taken during the civil war, was there a military use?

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  5. Professor Lowe used the balloon for aerial reconnaissance of Confederate troop movement. We have a really terrific member of our Civil War group who portrays Professor Lowe and his wife does Leontine Lowe. The wife is loosely related to Mrs Lowe and it's really fascinating to talk and hear her stories. Mrs Lowe fostered a young woman who became one of the earliest female pilots, was a complete black sheep, and highly respected in the flight community. I can't remember her name off hand, but she is from California and Texas I believe. I'll try to find it, she would be an excellent candidate for an Old Photo of the Day.

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  6. I was wrong there, it was their daughter, Florence "Pancho" Barnes, who was the aviatrix. Fascinating woman! The Lowes are quite fascinating themselves. They moved out to Pasadena, CA and established the Mount Lowe Railroad among other things. They had 10 children.

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  7. I had read that General Custer accepted rides in a ballon to scout enemy troop positions.

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  8. Interesting re: the use of balloons for recon. That doesn't seem particularly stealthy, or does that not matter?

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  9. PJM:

    Thanks. Actually, I first looked at the photo without my reading glasses (and I can't see), and it looked like a big, blurry pig.

    Do you know how they transferred the gas without it leaking all over the place?

    Their ingenuity amazes me!

    If you think about it, this stuff was quite advanced for its time!!

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  10. PJM:

    Based on the results, I think your female readers are voting in your latest poll under the pretense of being men.

    Those results can't possibly be true.

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  11. Concerning the use of the balloon for recon, actually, I believe it was painted sky blue or gray, and would likely blend into the sky pretty well. Also, he could see quite a distance so it wasn't necessary for him to be right on top of the troops. Just imagine how far you can see from the third or fourth floor of a building and then add binoculars and take away the smog. I also imagine the troops weren't really inclined to be looking at the sky since there were no planes, and balloons were fairly uncommon, although that is complete speculation on my part.

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  12. Norkio:

    You're probably right. Sounds very logical to me.

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  13. The balloon looked to be very well made and very light material. Thanks for the civil war era pictures.

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  14. Smart Girl-- I agree with your comment about the Men's poll. There is no way 82% (last time I looked) voted for the nice ugly girl.

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  15. Pancho Barnes? I remember reading and seeing her portrayed in the Right Stuff. Colorful life indeed.

    I think she was Thadeus Lowe's granddaughter...

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  16. You have to remember that during the civil war, alot of the rifles were smooth bored meaning they wern't very accurate and couldn't shoot very far. Thats why soldiers were shooting each other at close distances. With that said, the chances of hitting Lowe's balloon was very slim to none given the distance he was from the Confederate troops.

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