Monday, February 12, 2007


Here is a review of THE BALLOONIST as it appeared in the December 15, 2006 issue of BOOKLIST, the magazine published by the American Library Association.



Poleskie, Stephen. The Balloonist: The Story of T. S. C. Lowe – Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U. S. Air Force.

Dec. 2006. 368p. Frederic C. Beil, $24.95 (1-929490-27-5).973.7.


            This first full-scale biography of Thaddeus Lowe (1832-1913) makes fascinating reading for aviation buffs and students of nineteenth-century eccentricity. Lowe is best known for organizing the Civil War Army of the Potomac’s Balloon Corps, though it was disbanded because of losing high-ranking support, bureaucratic infighting, and, to some extent, the technological immaturity of balloons. Lowe was a stage magician before the war and after it worked seriously in such fields as mountain railroading and the extraction of hydrogen from water. His career suggests a failed Thomas Edison. Endlessly fertile in his invention, he lacked an organization to support the development of his ideas and winnow the viable ones from the rest. He never abandoned balloons, however, and left a definite legacy to fixed-wing aviation in the person of his granddaughter, aviatrix Pancho Barnes (1901-75, subject of Lauren Kessler’s biography The Happy Bottom Riding Club. 2000). Aviation and history collections may acquire this seemingly tangential book with clear consciences.  Roland Green



Copyright 2006, the American Library Association. This document may be reprinted and distributed for non-commercial and educational purposes only, and not for resale.




Thank you for logging on. Please check back again. And ask for THE BALLOONIST at your favorite bookstore or online. You can read an excerpt from this novel in the entry below. The review of Paul West's recently published poetry book has just been moved to the archieves, look for it there.       


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