Smithsonian Aviation Curator to Speak at Norwich about Lincoln Balloon Corps

Norwich University Office of Communications

March 12, 2015 

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center, the state’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, will host Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, for a lunch-and-learn on Wednesday, April 8 at noon in Milano Ballroom, located in Roberts Hall.

Crouch’s presentation, “Mr. Lincoln’s Air Force:  Military Aeronautics in the Civil War,” is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served, and a book-signing will follow.

Abraham Lincoln held a life-long fascination with technology and during the Civil War seldom missed an opportunity to investigate new weapons or innovations. New England balloonist T.S.C. Lowe was able to demonstrate to Lincoln the role that observation balloons might play in providing improved reconnaissance for the Union Army. The President not only encouraged Lowe’s plan to form a Balloon Corps to serve with the Army of the Potomac, but intervened on his behalf when military officials proved less than enthusiastic about the experiment. With the assistance of the President, Lowe was able to create and equip the Balloon Corps, which saw extensive service from 1861 to 1863.

Copies of Crouch’s books “Lighter-Than-Air: An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships,” and “The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright,” will be available for sale at the event.

Crouch holds a BA (1962) from Ohio University, an MA (1968) from Miami University and a PhD (1976) from the Ohio State University (all in history) and has been a Smithsonian employee since 1974. He is the author or editor of a number of books and many articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals. These include “Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America” and “Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age.”

Crouch has also received a number of book awards including a 1989 Christopher Award, a literary prize recognizing “significant artistic achievement in support of the highest values of the human spirit,” for “The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright.” His book “Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites to the Space Age” won the AIAA Gardner-Lasser Literature Prize for 2005, an award presented to the best book selected in that year from all books in the field of aerospace history published in the last five years.

For more information, call the Sullivan Museum at (802) 485-2183, or email  RSVPs encouraged, but not required.


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