Thaddeus Lowe–Abraham Lincoln’s Aeronaut

Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe is one of those people that, by his accomplishments, everyone should know, but that somehow has been almost forgotten. He was born in northern New Hampshire in 1832, and at the age of 18, went with his younger brother to a traveling lecture and demonstration about lighter-than-air gases by one Professor Reginald Dinkelhoff. When the esteemed Professor asked for a volunteer from the audience, Lowe jumped up, impressing the lecturer sufficiently to offer him a job as his assistant. When the Professor retired a few years later, Lowe bought the show—and the title Professor of Chemistry—from him and continued working the lecture circuit.

Thaddeus Lowe, ca. 1855

Thaddeus Lowe, ca. 1855

After a while, he began experimenting with building lighter-than-air balloons, and incorporated them into the act, offering rides to passengers at county fairs and the like. Imagine the excitement of a rural New England farmer of the late 1850s at being able to rise into the air tethered by only a thin rope to the ground.

I’m always somehow reminded of Professor Marvel from The Wizard of Oz at this point in Lowe’s story. Continue reading