as he disembarked from the basket in his
The farmers loaded him, his balloon, and apparatus into a wagon and
left for Unionville, South Carolina. There he was herded in with "Yankee
abolitionists" being held in a hotel. The landlord of the hotel recognized Professor
Lowe from a previous balloon accession and was quite aware of his scientific experiments.
Together they attempted to persuade the Confederate soldiers that Lowe was not a spy. Lowe
remembered the Cincinnati newspapers describing the flight stashed in the bottom of his
basket. This firmed up his innocence and he was released. Because of this ordeal he was
considered one of the earliest prisoners of war. The locals then treated him with a great
deal more respect. Not as much as he probably deserved but then after all he was a Yankee.
After a slight bit of fanfare Lowe was hustled onto a train and 5 days later he arrived in
Cincinnati. He traveled the same distance a few days earlier in only 9 hours.
Professor Lowe invented a portable gas
generator allowing balloons to be filled in the field.
Photo from THE HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR, 1895
After this harrowing experience Professor Lowe shelved his
Trans-Atlantic trip and decided to offer his aeronautical skills to the government.
Lincoln checked Professor Lowes credentials and after
being assured he was the best
person for the job, Lowe was brought to Washington for a
demonstration. The Professor took his balloon up to a height of 500 feet and with the help
of a battery to provide current he then proceeded to telegraph a message to the president
using a Morse instrument.
The message read:
To his Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United
From this point of observation we command an extent of country
nearly fifty miles in diameter. I have the pleasure of sending you this first telegram
ever dispatched from an aerial station, and acknowledging indebtedness to your
encouragement for the opportunity of demonstrating the availability of the service of
aeronautics in the service of the country. I am, Your Excellencys obedient servant,
T. S. C. Lowe
This aerial transmission was another great achievement by Lowe and
military leaders were quick to realize its importance. Lincoln gave Lowe a note clearing
the way to start the Aeronautic Corps.
Lowe was encountered at first with some resistance from General
Winfield Scott, "The Grand Old Man." It took a personal visit from Lincoln to
get the ball rolling again.
The Balloon Corps, as it came to be known, fought through vast
amounts of military red tape to get its job accomplished, but finally its main
Balloon preparing for a reconnaissance mission at General McDowell's
Engraving from Harpers Weekly
objective, reconnaissance, was put to work. Lowe and his team
found that they were great targets for the confederate soldiers. Carl Sandberg wrote that
Lowe was "The most shot-at man in the war.
Lowe took draftsmen up into the balloon with him so the army
engineers could make better maps. These maps would be of a great boon to relic hunters and
historians as their accuracy was impeccable. Previously the maps drawn of enemy positions
were greatly distorted.
Lowe used his own apparatus and even paid the men in his service
from his own pocket in the beginning. The military shifted him from one branch to another.
From the Corps of Engineers, to Quartermaster, and then to Signal Corps and back again.
Finally after much pleading he received funds to build five new much-needed balloons. The
largest were the Intrepid and the Union. They were 65 and 38 feet in diameter. Patriotic
women were recruited to do the sewing of more than 1200 yards of India silk in making the
balloons. The outlay to make each balloon was around $1000 to $1200.00.
On one of his early flights from Fort Corcoran Lowe describes
gliding along Warrenton Turnpike to Stone Bridge. He says, "The countryside is
devastated as if attacked by fire-breathing locusts." On a rise in front of him were
the ruins of two farmhouses, Stone House and Henry House, both surrounded by the debris of
battle. Confederate, and Federal troops had fought back and forth here across Henry Hill.
Later in the war Thaddeus Lowe was also involved in spotting for artillery fire. While
Confederate troops lay sleeping he directed the artillery fire that got them up and
running away from Falls
Church. The Confederate batteries on Munsons Hill shot back at
the only thing they could see which was Professor Lowes balloon. When he arrived
back at the base of operations General Porter congratulated Lowe for the success of the
flight's mission. Porter, pointing to a large cannon hole in the bottom of Lowes
basket advised the Professor to line his balloon with a sheet of metal. It was promptly
In time Lowe came to recognize the rows of humps on distant hills as
rows of tents and by counting them, Generals like Joe Hooker who went up more than once in
the balloon, could calculate how many troops were in the area. Low hanging clouds on the
horizon were actually clouds of dust kicked up by troop movements on the road. Judging by
the appearance and size of the clouds Lowe eventually could distinguish how many men were
marching, or if it was cavalry, or horses and wagons. He learned what smoke was from rifle
or cannon fire, and what was trash burning compared to cooking dinner for the troops.
A balloon camp called Camp Lowe was established at Edwards
Ferry near Harpers Ferry. Its duty was the protection of Washington on the
Northwest. At one point in the camps career two confederate spies were captured that told
of a $1000 gold reward and a commission was to be given to the man that destroyed a
Porfessor T.S.C. Lowe at the age of 27
Engraving from Harpers Weekly
As the army made its way to the Confederate capitol at
Richmond, Professor Lowe and General Stoneman got their first view of the city and it's
surrounding battle trenches. They looked down on it from a hill above the Chickahominy
River called Gaines Hill. Stoneman wanted it for his artillery and Lowe for his balloons.
The height of the hill was a definite advantage, however the trees hid many of the rebel
troops. Going aloft, Lowe and Stoneman were able to push back the rebels but more
importantly noticed that it was at Mechanicsville that the Virginia Central Railroad
supplied the city of Richmond. The Union troops took Mechanicsville and from their
positions there they could see with telescopes into the very streets of the capitol. The
balloon Intrepid played a major part in turning the attack of the Confederates at the
battle of Fair Oaks later that month by relaying the positions of the troops to awaiting
commanders in the field below. President Lincoln was able to follow almost the entire
battle as if he were there because of the telegraph messages sent from the balloon.
A visitor arrived one day to observe the balloon operations and Lowe
simply not having the time to deal with it turned away the young Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. It would have been his first balloon ride.
T. S. C. Lowe also was the first person to propel an aeronautical
device from the deck of a ship while anchored in the Potomac River, therefore in essence
the first aircraft carrier.
Professor Lowe about to make an ascension in Virginia
Engraving from Harper's Weekly
Lowe was an undeniable presence in many battle scenes of the
Civil War. His vision of aerial observations of enemy troop movements was a monumental
concept that has been continued now into the space age. Satellites now have the ability to
practically peek over our shoulders as we work. Professor Lowe came to Southern California
after the war and had another vision. It was an incline railroad that could transport
local and worldly tourists from the foothills of Altadena to the heights of Echo Mountain.
On July 4th, 1893 The Mt. Lowe Railroad officially took its first passengers up the 62%
grade incline to Echo Mountain. Hotels, a zoo, and an observatory greeted the tourists at
various stages of development. Later the Professor built an Alpine Division of the
railroad that wound around the mountain up to another resort at nearly 5000 feet, known as
the Alpine Tavern. This area had tennis courts, a fox farm, its own newspaper, and a miniature golf
course. The views of the valley below were spectacular. From
a spot that became known as Inspiration Point a visitor could see as far away as Catalina
The millions of visitors that came to its lofty heights from 1893
until it was shut down completely in 1937 witnessed the vision of Thaddeus Lowe. It was
the Disneyland of its time bringing
city folk and flatlanders into the wilds of the San Gabriel
Mountains. The Pacific Electric Railroad eventually bought the entire complex and brought
fares down to a price that millions more could afford. It was a world class attraction.
Unfortunately this area now known for its high winds and fires was
destroyed piece by piece. The wind storms literally blew away what fires did not burn.
Today the foundations of the buildings still remain. It is a ghost town, if you will,
overlooking the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles.
Whether from a balloon or from the peaks of a mountain top Thaddeus
Lowe sought to reach up to the clouds. It was his goal to improve his and others' powers
of observation of the things around us. His observations of the enemy in the Civil War
were invaluable. Also the sights he saw from the top of Mt. Lowe were so astonishing he
had to share them with the rest of the earth, thereby opening his Mt. Lowe Railroad.
In this issue weve delved into Thaddeus Lowe's Civil War
ballooning exploits, which in many parts of the country is his only known claim to fame.
The Civil War is a
fascinating part of our American History and Lowe played an amazing part in it.
For a Lowe collector this is an area that often produces items out
of the average persons pocket range of affordability. There are however items that
are affordable and will add nicely to your collection.
There are three books that I know of you can purchase at rare
bookstores, ABE internet service, and some times at railroad shows.
Thaddeus Lowe Americas One-Man Air Corps,
By Mary Hoehling was published by Kingston House in 1958. This book typically sells in
rare bookstores for $15 35.00 depending on condition. However, if you keep a
watchful eye out on the Internet you can pick up a good reading copy of this book for
Thaddeus Lowe Uncle Sams First Airman,
By Lydel Sims was published by G. P. Putnams Sons in 1964. This book of Lowes
exploits is not as well known and In six years Ive only seen the one copy I bought
for myself. The edition I purchased was minus a dust jacket and was a library book at one
time devaluing it a great deal. I paid $12.00 for this one after shipping. This book
should sell in the $10. 18.00 range.
Above the Civil War, the story of Thaddeus Lowe
Balloonist, Inventor, Railway Builder, By Eugene B. Block. This Lowe book
was published by Howell North Books in 1966. This is the best of the three
presenting the subject matter in a more mature fashion and offering a great deal of
photos. I highly recommend this book if you can find it at a reasonable price. I have
bought three copies, the best of which I kept for myself. I paid $25, $27, and $32.00 and
from what Ive seen lately they were cheap. I was recently offered a copy at $75.00!
Old Harpers Magazines of the Civil War era carry beautiful
engravings depicting Lowes service to the war. At a recent antique swap meet, I
picked up an interesting old paper cover book called A History of the Civil War, by Benson
J. Lossing and illustrated with Brady War Photographs. It had a 1895 copyright on lower
part of the front cover and it was $5.00. I bought it as it was and looked at it later and
to my surprise were three pictures of Lowes balloons and gas making devises.
How about stamps? Did you know there was a stamp of the
Intrepid that was a block of four ballooning stamps? These are relatively inexpensive.
There was also a Thaddeus
Lowe Aerogramme issued in 1995 that some post
offices still have and it sells for fifty cents!
AMT Models came out with a model #T571, INTREPID CIVIL WAR BALLOON,
AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE PIONEER. Im not sure what these go for as the only one
Ive seen was a present to me from a good friend. I have check on the internet and
there are people who run into them from time to time.
Other items to whet your appetite are signed documents, balloon
anchors, riding crops, Lowes sword and how about a coin issued in 1971 by Jefferson,
New Hampshire for their 175th Anniversary depicting on one side their hometown
hero Thaddeus Lowe ballooning above a Civil War scene.
New items pop up every week from out attics and closets so keep your
Barbara Hunter Schultz
Pancho did stunt flying in Dawn Patrol
From time to time, the human race produces unique,
one-of-a-kind characters who become our heroes, mentors, celebrities, and geniuses. Pancho
Barnes played all the roles with her own brand of conformity. She possessed an
extraordinary zest for life, an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and a profound
curiosity of the unknown. Although she involved herself in a diverse mixture of careers
and interests, she gained the most notoriety for her accomplishments and exploits in
aviation the avocation to which she dedicated her life. It was there among the
flyers, that she found a family.
Born in 1901 in Pasadena, California, Pancho inherited wealth,
status, and privilege. Her paternal grandfather was Professor Thaddeus Lowe who
volunteered the use of his air balloons to President Lincoln during the Civil War.
Most of Pancho's youth was spent on horseback in the company of her
father or grandfather. The professor took his favorite granddaughter to every aviation
event in Southern California and inspired her with dreams of flight. Mr. Lowe taught
Pancho all there was to know about animals.
Pancho and her little chiuahua ready for the Transcontinental
William E. Barnes Collection
Two years after graduating from Bishops School in La
Jolla, California, Pancho entered into an arranged marriage with Reverend Rankin Barnes.
The handsome clergyman reminded her of the romantic movie idols she often watched during
Saturday afternoon matinees. It was not a match made in heaven, however. Rankins
salary was meager and his nature sterile and antiseptic. Pancho made an honest attempt at
being a good wife for three years. In 1924 she gave up her arduous task.
Pancho found numerous jobs in the film industry, from electrician to
stunt rider. Her salary enabled her to hire a nurse for her son, Bill. This, in turn,
freed her to travel. On one Mexican adventure, she acquired her nickname.
In 1927, Pancho remodeled her San Marino home
and began a tradition of lavish parties for her society, movie, and aviation friends. One
year later, Pancho took up flying. She formed the Pancho Barnes Circus of the Air,
giving Sunday afternoon performances at the many fields that dotted the Los Angeles Basin.
She entered the first Powder
Puff Derby I August 1929. Soon after she
became the first woman to fly into the interior of Mexico and set several womans
Pancho Barnes poses with her Travel Air
In 1934, Pancho traded an apartment building in Hollywood for a ranch near what is now Edwards Airforce Base. She grew alfalfa, raised goats, cows, and hogs, and provided rest and
recreation for the Army Air Corps. She supplied instructors and planes for the Civilian
Pilot Training Program in 1940.
During World War II, Panchos ranch and restaurant saw a steady
clientele. Its location, glamorous hostesses, and outrageous owner were responsible. To
make her business more exclusive, she called it the Happy Bottom riding Club and passed
out membership cards. Scandalous rumors of a brothel began to spread as a result of the
scintillating name. Pancho denied innuendoes that she was a madam, stating that whatever
the girls did on their on time was their own business.
Edwards Air Force Base initiated an expansion program in 1951. Their
plans included a 10 mile runway to accommodate supersonic aircraft and Panchos club
lay right in its path. She knew her business was doomed but gave the government a
fight they would never forget. She sued them and won almost $400,000 in an inverse
condemnation proceeding. The government took possession of her property.
Pancho relocated some 30 miles to the north in Cantil. She
intended to open another club but the location, timing, and money were not adequate. For
nearly a decade, the former aviatrix lived in a state of near poverty, survived
life-threatening illnesses, and went through a nasty divorce from her last husband. In
1968, her son Bill purchased her Mystery
Ship at an aircraft auction. This one single event inspired
Pancho to take flying lessons and renew her friendships with her aviation friends.
Further, everyone wanted to meet the aging speed queen. There were rounds of parties,
recognition, and awards. When Pancho died of heart failure in 1975, her life had come full
The author of this article, Barbara Hunter Schultz, is also the
author of the book titled Pancho, The
Birography of Florence Lowe Barnes. It was published by
Little Buttes Publishing Company in 1996.
When I read this book I must say I was quite moved by the story of
Pancho Barnes and her adventures in life. Barbara has written a wonderful book which not
only tells of Pancho's life but early aviation in the United States. I recommend it to
Live in the Sky and the Tops of Trees
Bird watching is a
popular activity for many reasons. We are attracted to the creatures of the sky because of
their beauty, their diversity of song, and their unique characteristics.
Wandering out into the Angeles National Forest to identify birds is
a real adventure and sometimes a detective hunt. Rarely does the bird come to you and sit
idly by while you attempt to identify it by thumbing through the pages of your field
Maybe you only hear the song, or perhaps you've found a feather or a
nest. The bird detective uses all these clues, including location and season, to determine
which birds are in the area.
Many common birds are easily spotted since we already know them from
our urban areas around parks and in backyards.
Mockingbirds, house sparrows, blue jays, crows, black birds, and
pigeons are ubiquitous and are frequently regarded as pests, not friends. Pigeons have
been dubbed "rats with wings" due to their pervasiveness and likelihood of
There are other birds -- though not as populous -- which are
wonderful to encounter. Hummingbirds are easy to attract at home with inexpensive hummingbird
feeders. Daily I hear their electric hum outside
my kitchen window as they sip the red nectar I put out for them or
the flowers from the vines my wife has planted. I've seen hummingbirds attracted to the
feeders put out at many of the cabins scattered throughout
the forest. They are also attracted to the tubular yellow flowers of
the tree tobacco, which is why I like the plant.
Horned owls are somewhat common.
We may not see them, but we can often hear their familiar "hoo, hoo" in the
forest at night. I recall camping out one night in the Arroyo Seco. We were sitting around
the fire, talking about the meaning of life, and watching the fire. The tall trees
surrounding our campsite danced with the orange of the flames and we felt as if we were in
a special sanctuary. Then the owls began. They had completely surrounded our camp, for we
heard their hoots from all directions. I always watch with awe as they glide off, enormous
American Indians regarded the owls with superstition and awe, as do
both Polynesians and Melanesians in their folklore. Owls are regarded as protectors, and
providers of omens.
Red-tailed hawks are frequently seen in the Angeles National Forest,
as well as certain areas throughout Southern California. I have noted a pair that flies
over my Highland Park home. On one Saturday, my wife and I watched in amazement as seven
red-tailed hawks casually glided overhead. It was unusual to see that many at one time,
especially in the city.
frequently see and hear woodpeckers in the forest, which are easy to identify by the staccato of
their pecking. I like hearing the woodpeckers, not just because the sound of their picking
out insects below the surface of the bark is somehow "rustic." Their sound is a
reassuring reminder that there is still wildlife around. The first time I ever heard a
woodpecker was while camping at Spruce Grove in the Angeles National Forest. The pecking
of the woodpecker echoed so loud in the canyon that it woke me up. I actually believed
there was a construction crew nearby!
I've only seen eagles on a few occasions. One such occasion seemed
most portentous. I was hiking with a class in the upper Arroyo Seco on Pasadena's west
side. A jogger coming from the other direction told us to look across the stream.
"Look on the log!" he told us excitedly. "Look at the eagle with the
rattlesnake in its mouth" and he ran off.
Sure enough, it was an eagle, though the snake seemed to be a gopher
snake. We couldn't tell for sure because of the distance. Then the big bird quickly flew
away as we watched. Our group was dumbfounded for a few moments. Just an hour earlier, one
of our party had told us about Montezuma's dream. In the dream, he was told to settle a
city when he saw the symbol of the eagle with a snake in its mouth. Montezuma continued
his journey, and he saw an eagle with a snake in its mouth in a swampy land.
That swamp land became Mexico City. An eagle and snake are now found
on all of Mexico's currency.
So where can one go on a bird walk with an expert?
regularly conducts bird walks in many locations. Check your local phone book. Bird walks
are regularly conducted at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive in La Canada. Call (818)
790-5571 for times of bird walks. There are also regular bird walks at the L.A. County
Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia. Call (818) 446-8251 for the schedule
Nyerges is a nautralist who has conducted field trips since
1974. A newsletter of his classes is available from School of Self-Feliance, Box 41834,
Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or online at home.earthlink.net/~nyerges.
His book, Guide to Wild Foods, is available in the Echo Mountain Echoes' Mountain
Marketplace, at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena, and at all Sport Chalet stores.
the Top of Mt. Lowe
the Easy Way
By Jake Brouwer
Im sad to say it but if you
have a schedule like mine the only way to the top of Mt. Lowe is the easy way. Getting up
early on a Sunday morning my son-in-law Jesse and I drove up beautiful Angeles
Crest Highway to the Ranger station at Red Box. We turned in here and admired the view
before we drove on to Eaton Saddle, which is the first spot on the road you can look to
the south over the San Gabriel Valley. We parked near the Mt. Lowe fire road gate being
careful not to block it in any way. As we walked the road in a slight gradual climb off
our left was the sprawling Eaton Canyon. Soon we were rounding the south face of San Gabriel
Peak and entering Mueller Tunnel. Before entering the tunnel I told Jesse that a few
months ago at a slide show, John Robinson told of his hair raising venture across what was
then called the old Cliff Trail. Jesse asked where it was and nearly died when I showed
him the trail along the sheer rock face in front of us. "No way." He yelled.
"Not for us, thats for sure." I said.
Continuing on to the saddle between Mt. Markham and San
Gabriel Peak we were soon passed by a trio of mountain bikers on the long trip down to
Pasadena. Just past the saddle a well-marked trail led us up across the southwest slope of
Mt. Markham on finally to another saddle which turned out to be Markham and Mt. Lowe. From
here we traveled around the east side of Mt. Lowe. When we were last there the trail was
in good shape and well marked.
Jesse spotted an old sign in an oak that the tree had
grown around. We could make out that it said "TO MT. LOWE." There was an arrow
and a what looked like the distance in miles but we could not read the rusted sign that
well. Thanks to this old oak this is one of the few remaining signs along the Mt. Lowe
Once on the top we were greeted by cool breezes and spectacular
views. This was a three mile roundtrip. The easy way to Mt. Lowe.
For more information concerning Mt. Lowe trails consult Trails of the
Angeles by Robinson and Hiking Guide to
Historic Mt. Lowe by Rippens.
of our readers
On April 15th 1998 a
group from Randolph, New Hampshire, arrived in southern California for the express
purpose of finding out more about their relative Thaddeus Lowes adventures on
the West Coast. The group consisted of Gordon Alan Lowe, Joyce Lowe Chaffee, Mark
Santos and a friend Owen. I had been in contact with Alan Lowe and Mark Santos,
his son-in-law over the Internet after they had found the Echo Mtn. Echoes
site. Gordon Alan Lowe is the great grandson of Thaddeus Lowes brother Charles
Lowe who will be the subject of an article in our next issue.
Mark Santos, Joyce Lowe Chaffeee & G.
On the 19th we met the group at the Great Western
Bank in Altadena to tour the Scenic Mt. Lowe Railway. Friend and writer Paul
Rippens accompanied us on the trip and was a great source of information for the many
questions that came up as we traveled nearly the entire route. We started at MacPherson
Parkway and then headed on up the fire road. At Cape of Good Hope we parked the
vehicle and hiked into Echo Mountain where a pleasant couple of hours were spent exploring
and having a leisurely lunch. Afterwards we drove up to the Dawn Station still under
construction and then on to Alpine Tavern, the Fox Farm and finally Inspiration Point. Oh
yes we also posed for pictures at Granite Gate. A great time was had by all.
Collector Michael Patris.
May was a hectic month for me, five family birthdays,
Mothers Day and, my twenty-forth anniversary. In between all these events the Scenic
Mt. Lowe Railway Historical Committee and forest service volunteers attempted more
than once to finish the station at Dawn but rain seemed to be ever present. Finally on May
30th we finished the roof and were able to stand back and see our finished
work. A great photograph was taken by subscriber and photographer Herb Shoebridge
which will grace our cover issue in the fall. I hope to put together a photo essay of our
progress and present it to the Altadena Historical society for all to view.
In June Micheal Patris spoke on collecting Mt. Lowe at the Collectors Convention
and has graciously accepted to host Land-Sea Discovery Groups slide show
presentation on July 27th, 1998. The show will be presented by author Barbara
Hunter Schultz and will be based on the subject of her book, Pancho, the
Autobiography of Florence Lowe Barnes. Cake and coffee will be served and a small
display of Mt. Lowe collectibles will be on display.
The Dogtown Territorial News Quarterly featured articles by Paul
Rippens on the St. Francis Dam Disaster and by SMLRHC member John Harrigan, a
wonderful piece on the Lone Woman of Santa Cruz Island. Both were interesting article and
congratulations to both writers on publishing their work.
By the time
this issue hits your mailbox it hopefully will be summer at last. It seems to have been a
long time coming this year.
Our issue this month will bring our readers that are not familiar with Thaddeus
Lowes Civil War exploits a condensed version of this period in the life of one of
Americas first airman.
Christopher Nyerges wrote a wonderful piece called They Live in the
Sky and the Tops of the Trees.
Barbara Schultz was also kind enough to write a piece for the Echoes
bringing us a insight to Thaddeus Lowes grand-daughter, Florence Lowe Barnes, also
known as Pancho Barnes. Pancho was an aviatrix whos exploits and character warrant
A slide show has been scheduled for July 27th. presented by Mrs.
Schultz about Pancho. We have limited seating so reserve your seat now! Information is on
page 6 of this issue.
Our next issue will feature the camps and trails of the surrounding
area near Mt. Lowe. Hear about Camp Sierra, Switzer's, Oak Wilde, Opids and more.
The great hiking era was an exciting time in southern California and what better time to
explore our mountains than in our fall issue.
Until then enjoy the summer.