Lincoln's Air Force

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Prof. T.S.C. Lowe, Civil War balloonist Professor Thaddeus Lowe standing with his horse in front of a Union encampment. Item Link

Aviatrix Florence "Pancho" Barnes and her grandfather, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, were kindred spirits. Despite being born into high society, Pancho wanted to emulate her grandfather in any way she could, including his love of aviation.

"Every Sunday, the old man would take his granddaughter on another adventure. They trekked by mule up the San Gabriel Mountains, cheered in the stands at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, sat side by side on a hard bench under the Ringling Brothers big top watching a parade of trained elephants, toured alligator farms and ostrich racnhes, visited expositions, horse shows, and amusement parks. The old man was tall and spare, with a strong jaw and chiseled face, still handsome in his late seventies. He had dark, deep-set eyes, a well-tended silver handlebar mustache, and the bearing of a man who knew he was somebody. He was. He was Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe, Civil War hero, pioneering balloonist, renowned inventor, promoter, and showman, known nationwide as the man who had created the grandest, most astonishing, most popular tourist attraction in turn-of-the-century Southern California. Holding his hand was eight-year-old granddaughter Florence, his favorite among many. She was an energetic, excitable girl with a moon face, a short neck, and little legs already muscular from years of horseback riding. She was brash and adventurous, maybe even foolhardy and a bit wild, and he loved her for it. He loved her pluck, her physical bravery, her feistiness. To her mother, Florence was an unruly, undisciplined, and uncivilized child. To her grandfather, she was a kindred spirit."(1)

(1) Kessler, Lauren. The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes. Random House: New York, 2000, pp. 3-4

The International Women's Air & Space Museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio in the Terminal of Burke Lakefront Airport. Visit us today!