Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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LOWE, Thaddeus S. C., aeronaut, born in Jefferson, New Hampshire, 20 August, 1832. He made his earliest voyages about 1858, and during one of them rose to a height of 23,000 feet. On 20 April, 1861, he rose from Cincinnati, Ohio, at 4 a. m, in a balloon, and drifted first westward, but afterward to the southeast, attaining an altitude of 18,000 feet. He descended in Union county, South Carolina, after being in the air eight hours and traversing 350 miles in straight line. He next announced his intention of crossing the Atlantic ocean by means of a balloon, and for this purpose constructed one of oiled cotton with a capacity of 725,000 cubic feet" but after several unsuccessful attempts to inflate it, he abandoned the attempt. Soon after the beginning of the civil war he visited Washington for the purpose of recommending to the government the desirability of using balloons for observing the movements of the enemy. He made several captive ascensions (those in which the balloon is held to the earth, and finally drawn down, by a long rope) from the grounds of the Smithsonian institution, and was then made chief aeronautic engineer of the army. Several balloons, in the hands of his assistant, made ascensions" but as they were independent of any branch of the service, their efficiency was greatly impaired. Mr. Lowe was the first to make experiments in sending messages by the electric telegraph from a balloon to the ground" but, although he was successful, his device does not appear to have been put to any satisfactory employment. He invented and put into practical use a portable apparatus for generating hydrogen gas for war balloons. These he had constructed from the closest woven and strongest pongee silk, varying in capacity from 15,000 to 20,000 cubic feet. During Mr. Lowe's connection with the Army of the Potomac, General Fitz-John Porter, General George Stoneman, and others made ascensions" but Mr. Lowe's relations with the military authorities became strained, on account of his independent appointments, and many of his bills remained unaudited, owing to the feeling between him and the engineer officers, so that he severed his connection with the army long before the close of the war. Subsequently he made captive ascensions from Philadelphia and New York" but these proving financially unsuccessful, he retired from aeronautic pursuits after disposing of his apparatus to the Brazilian government. Mr. Lowe then turned his attention to inventing, and obtained patents on various mechanical devices, one of the first of which was an ice-making machine. Later he invented a machine for making water-gas by the addition of crude petroleum, which has resulted in the production of an illuminant equal to that obtained from coal, and at a much less cost. One of his more recent inventions is light produced by means of a coil of wire heated to incandescence by a jet of non-luminous water-gas under heavy pressure. Mr. Lowe is now (1888) engaged in perfecting a system for the use of water-gas as a fuel for cities, and in the production of appliances for cooking and heating, adapted to the use of water-gas.
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