Smithsonian Marks Birth of Balloon Corps

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Union Balloon Corps on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., by re-enacting, in part, the balloon demonstration that Thaddeus Lowe gave President Lincoln there on June 11, 1861. Lowe successfully pitched to Lincoln that day how balloon reconnaissance could help the Union Army prevail in the Civil War by reporting his sightings as he floated 500 feet above the city. For Saturday’s anniversary event, the museum displayed on the mall a partially inflated 19,000-cubic-foot netted gas balloon built in 1941 to replicate Lowe’s and had actors portraying Lowe, Lincoln, and Union soldiers. “One hundred and fifty years later, balloons are still performing the function they did in 1861,” said Tom Crouch, the museum’s curator for lighter-than-air aircraft. (AFPS report by Donna Miles) (See also Kansas City Star report.)