Liftoff! World’s First Manned Civil War Balloon
Replica Begins Public Flights on July 4
Intrepid Cleared to Launch at Genesee Country Village & Museum
MUMFORD, N.Y., July 3 — During the past week, residents of Western New York may have seen an unfamiliar object rise into to the sky, only to disappear from the horizon after a few minutes. Now, following a series of test launches, the Intrepid – the world’s first replica of a manned Civil War balloon – has been cleared for public flights beginning Wednesday, July 4 at Genesee Country Village & Museum (GCV&M; www.gcv.org).
Weather permitting, the balloon will take guests – up to four at a time – approximately 300 feet (32 stories) into the sky, simulating what the world’s first military pilots (aeronauts) experienced 150 years ago over Civil War battlefields.
GCV&M, located between Rochester and Buffalo, is the largest living history museum in New York State, and maintains the third largest collection of historic buildings in the United States.
First announced this past February, the Intrepid project has captured the imagination of families, educators, historians and aviation enthusiasts across North America. Renowned documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, adventure balloonist and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson, and the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum’s senior curator of Aeronautics, Tom D. Crouch, Ph.D., have praised the reconstruction.
“The Intrepid was the predecessor to modern-day military aviation, foreshadowing the future of military reconnaissance communications,” said Peter Arnold, GCV&M’s CEO and president. “The pilot would send intelligence information – troop movements, artillery compensation instructions, and more – to soldiers on the ground via telegraph. It was a remarkably innovative concept at the time.”
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Corps was personally approved by President Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. Like the genuine seven gas balloons used during the Civil War, the Intrepid is tethered to land for optimal convenience and safety.
GCV&M’s Intrepid utilizes helium instead of hydrogen, which was easily generated in the 1860s using iron filings and acid. A generous donation from Macy’s, Inc. during the current nationwide helium shortage allowed the project to carry forward on schedule.
Fifteen-minute flights cost $10 for GCV&M members or $15 for non-members in addition to standard Museum admission rates. Tickets are available on-site, and cannot be pre-ordered due to weather-dependent flight scheduling.
In addition to the balloon, GCV&M has constructed a permanent Civil War encampment at the launch site, which is open to all Museum guests.
A team of prominent advisors is assisting with the project, including Dr. Crouch; Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and Rob Shenk, director, Internet Strategy & Development, Civil War Trust. The Intrepid was built by AeroBalloon Inc. of Hingham, Mass., and painted by illustrator Todd Price of Elk Creek, Va.
Malcolm Spaull, chair of Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation, is shooting a documentary about the project. The film is expected to air on PBS later this year.
The initiative’s total estimated cost of nearly $400,000 has been partially offset by a number of generous donations. GCV&M will continue to seek additional financial support for the project.
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About Genesee Country Village & Museum
Genesee Country Village & Museum (www.gcv.org) helps visitors understand the lives and times of 19th-century America through interactive programs, events and exhibits. It is the largest and most comprehensive living history museum in New York State and maintains the third largest collection of historic buildings in the United States. The 700-acre complex consists of 68 historic structures furnished with 15,000 artifacts to provide an authentic 19th-century environment in which visitors can interact with knowledgeable, third-person historic interpreters in period-appropriate dress.
Katie Corbut, McDougall Travers Collins for Genesee Country Village & Museum
phone: 585-210-9585 or 716-464-4713