Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

This quarter-plate ambrotype made by an unknown photographer, shows the balloon ascension by John Steiner at Erie, Pennsylvania, on June 18, 1857. The scene pictured is the first attempt to fly to Canada across Lake Erie. This ambrotype, which shows men ringing the balloon as it is inflated outdoors, is thought to be the earliest dated photographic image of a balloon ascension in the United States.

Collection Item Long Description:


  • Aeronautics
  • Airships
  • Balloons
  • Balloons--History

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions on access


  • Steiner, John H
  • Lowe, Thaddeus S. C

Physical description

0.05 cubic feet (1 folder)


  • 1857
  • Pre-1903
  • Pre-1900


Professor John H. Steiner emigrated from Germany in 1853 and quickly established himself as a daring aeronaut. Steiner's flight in 1857, the first attempt to fly to Canada across Lake Erie, made him famous . Due to adverse weather conditions, Steiner eventually was forced to jump into the lake and was rescued by the crew of the steamer Mary Stewart. His balloon was later found, in tatters, having successfully made it to Canada without its pilot. During the Civil War, Steiner served as a balloonist for the Union forces with Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's Balloon Corps. As a civilian in 1863, Steiner gave a tethered balloon ride to German officer, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was on leave as a military observer with Union army. Years later, after Count Zeppelin's rigid airships had flown over the cities of Europe, Zeppelin recalled his flight with Steiner as his inspiration.

Repository Loc.

National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division, MRC 322, Washington, DC, 20560



Local number