First Looks

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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. (53k jpg)
Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center

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. (65k jpg)
Courtesy of Boston Public Library

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. (44k jpg)
Gift of the heirs of Thaddeus Lowe.

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

Text excerpts from Letter from
Gen. Stoneman to Thaddeus Lowe

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