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Thaddeus Lowe, a pioneer in balloon reconnaissance, flew high above the battlefields to observe troop movements during the Civil War. In this photo, he is shown reporting the approach of a Confederate regiment in an area where Union officers had expected only friendly forces.
Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center


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Early photo of Thaddeus Lowe.
Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center.


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Lowe used these field glasses during the Civil War for aerial observations of Confederate troops.
Gift of the heirs of Thaddeus Lowe.


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Note dated July 25, 1861, from President Lincoln urging Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott to meet with Thaddeus Lowe to discuss his balloons. Lincoln was impressed by the potential of balloons for reconnaissance, but the skeptical General Scott, a senior military commander, needed some convincing. Lincoln urged him to provide Lowe with any necessary assistance.
Gift of the heirs of Thaddeus Lowe.


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Original correspondence between Thaddeus Lowe and Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Henry gave Lowe much support in his quest to use his balloons for Civil War reconnaissance. In 1861 with Henry's aid, Lowe demonstrated the value of his balloon on the site where the National Air & Space Museum now stands. From his vantage point 500 feet above the ground, he telegraphed a message to President Lincoln thanking him for his encouragement.
Text excerpts from Lowe's letter to Joseph Henry, July 15, 1863


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Letter from Major General George Stoneman praising Lowe's achievements.
Text excerpts from Letter from Gen. Stoneman to Thaddeus Lowe


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Boston in 1860 photographed by William Black from Samuel Archer King's balloon, the "Queen of the Air". A previous attempt by Black to photograph Providence, R.I., from a balloon produced unsatisfactory results, and the Boston photos represent the first successful aerial photographic effort in the U.S.
Courtesy of Boston Public Library


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This balloon view of the U.S. Capitol in 1907 is among the earliest aerial photos of Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center


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