Collection Item Summary:
Wooden valve assembly from the balloon originally known as the "City of New York," later renamed the "Great Western." Constructed by T.S.C. Lowe in 1859, the balloon stood 200 feet tall from the keel of the lifeboat dangling beneath the basket to this valve at the very top of the envelope. The envelope was 130' in diameter, with a total capacity of 725.000 cubic feet of lifting gas. Work on the balloon began in July 1859, and was complete within 90 days. Inflation began at the New York City Crystal Palace, 42nd St. and 6th Avenue, on September 30, 1859. By November 16, Lowe was forced to apologize for the fact that inflation was still far from complete. The New York City gas system was apparently not equal to the task. Lowe renamed the balloon "Great Western" that fall, in response to the gigantic transatlantic steamer "Great Eastern," and placed it in storage. He accepted an offer from citizens of Philadelphia to host the inflation and flight of the balloon the following spring. The "Great Western" took to the air for the first time from Philadelphia in late June 1860. The controversial balloon burst during inflation on September 8, 1860. Attempts to fund the repair of the balloon, or the creation of a new envelope, failed. Portions of the fabric of the Great Western were used to construct the balloon "Enterprise," with which Lowe conducted his demonstrations of observation ballooning on the National Mall in 1861, and with which he made his first operational flights for the Union Army.