One hundred and fifty years ago this month, Thaddeus Lowe demonstrated to President Lincoln how a gas-filled balloon might be used to spy on the enemy, thus helping the Union Army and establishing the earliest "air force."
In celebration of this anniversary, the following activities will take place inside the Museum and on the National Mall:
Inside the National Air and Space Museum
Discover the secrets of espionage through tours (self-guided and docent-led) and hands-on activities
Construct balloons and binoculars
Design a Civil War Balloon Corps Badge
See what Washington, D.C. looked like then and now
11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Listen to a reading of The Great Round-the-World Balloon (a Flights of Fancy story time)
Noon- 2:00 p.m. Book signing with Gail Jarrow, author of Lincoln's Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps.
Outside on the National Mall between 4th and 7th Streets, SW.
See a 19,000 cubic foot balloon* and Civil War re-enactors.
See live aerial footage of the Mall (weather permitting)
At the corner of 7th and C Streets, SW
Participate in activities and take tours with the National Park Service:
Visit their Civil War activity for kids
Listen to Ranger talks about President Lincoln and Civil War forts.
Take a bike tour of Civil War history on the National Mall (bring your own bike)
View live images of the Mall from the vantage point of balloon.
Meet historic figures like Abraham Lincoln, Thaddeus Lowe, and Mary Henry
Bike Tour—Civil War on the National Mall
11 AM – 12:30 PM (Bring your own bike)
1:00 p.m. Come to a dedication ceremony for a plaque commemorating Thaddeus Lowe.
More information about Thaddeus Lowe and Civil War Ballooning.
*The balloon is a netted gas balloon that will be partially inflated with a "cold air blower." It was built in 1941 and is very similar in operation and size to the balloons used by Thaddeus Lowe. Partial inflation is necessary to comply with National Park Service restrictions.