Thaddeus S. C. Lowe Family Photographs Collection

Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe (1832-1913), was a balloonist, the Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army's Balloon Corps, a self-trained scientist and engineer, and an inventor and entrepreneur. He was born in Jefferson Mills, New Hampshire on August 20, 1832. After leaving his local grammar school, Lowe educated himself in chemistry and meteorology. Lowe built a portable laboratory and traveled on the lecture circuit, lecturing on scientific subjects and giving public demonstrations. In 1855, Lowe married Leontine Augustine Gachon, a French actress; they eventually had ten children. Lowe acquired his first balloon in 1856, and first achieved public notice with a series of ascents in Ottawa in 1858. In 1859, Lowe developed plans for a transatlantic flight with his giant "City of New York" (later renamed "Great Western") balloon, though the attempt was never made. With the coming of the Civil War, Lowe offered his services as a balloonist to the Union Army. His reconnaissance operations were appreciated, but disputes over pay caused him to resign in 1863. Lowe developed and patented the water gas process for the production of hydrogen gas, and invented a series of ice-making machines. Lowe moved to California in 1887 and eventually settled in Pasadena, where he built ice plants and founded a bank. With David J. Macpherson, Lowe began the construction of the Pasadena and Mt. Wilson Railway. By 1899, Lowe had suffered financial setbacks and his fortune was lost. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe died at the age of 80 in Pasadena on January 16, 1913.