Every Collection has a Story. The Archives holds records that document the Smithsonian’s people, events, buildings, and research. The history of the Smithsonian is a vital part of the history of American experience, scientific exploration, and international cultural understanding.

Thaddeus Lowe's Balloon Ascent

June 18, 1861

Encouraged by Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, balloonist Thaddeus S. C. Lowe makes a number of ascents from the future site of the National Air and Space Museum, and from the Smithsonian and White House grounds, to demonstrate usefulness of balloons for military reconnaissance, by using the telegraph to communicate between aerial balloons and the ground. Henry witnesses these ascents and helps Lowe become appointed to organize a balloon corps within the Union Army.

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