Wedding Made In Heaven
following story is based on all true facts gleaned from a copy of
a news article in the NEW YORK HERALD, Thursday, November 25, 1865,
which was so graciously provided to E-adventure by Audrey Anderson,
a direct descendant of Thaddeus Lowe.
New York City as it looked in 1859.
a reporter of the time sometimes brings one into the realm of things
thought to be far beyond their grasp when first imagined. So it
was when this strange assignment was handed to me. Not having seen,
nor been to such an affair before, no visions were thereby banked
for me to draw from. By duties course I set forth making my way
through the already gathering throng awaiting the grand event.
A wedding! Imagine my distain for my dear editor when asked to cover
such an affair after the struggles I'd gone through just to have
him see my penned work in years past. Now a reporter in good standing
with the New York Herald and he has me to cover a wedding! But hark,
what manner of madness has come upon our city. The sixth avenue
streetcars are packed, in but one direction, and the sidewalks are
full. Have I been led amiss in my assignment?
As I strode quickly towards the amphitheatre where the event was
to be held, one could not help but to hear and see the merriment
that seemed to be excreting from this one event. Catches of words
and phrases soon quickened my pace as I put together that this was
indeed a special assignment, and forgive my thoughts oh dear editor,
as I now understand the importance of the event. You ask, "Who
and what and where?" and I will reply in haste, "Not who
and what and where, but how!" "But how?" You say.
"Yes, but how? And only just now I found out myself it was
to be a balloon bridal!
Who would have thought, and least of all myself, such a romantic
affair would be in the making just beneath our nose? Well, dear
friends apparently quite a few were aware of the event, and where
had I been, to not know? Be that as it is, on gaining entrance to
the amphitheatre I found it rapidly filling. The park surrounding
the amphitheatre was a solid block of people from all walks, sitting,
standing, and generally gaining view from any perch available anxiously
awaiting the grand affair.
Discussion ran from rock to window, and back to grassy knoll, between
countrymen, promoting theirs to be the finest place to land. A young
Scott, cried out, "Why dinna ye ken, mon, they're gangin to
Bonnie Scotland." His countrymen declared their friend was
"frashed" and the whole sally raised much laughter.
Off to another side a "Fenian" burst in with a comment
about "it's the Isle of Shky they be striking acrass unbeknownst
to themselves!" An old man shouted, "Maybe his wife will
be blowing him sky high soon enough without his saving her the trouble."
The police moved in the area and things soon quieted down for a
while whilst beyond their view, bourbon whiskies made the rounds.
The squatters in the neighborhoods were in their glory. Freedom
was theirs for the day, and even the high picket palings surrounding
the enclosure, were not sufficient to keep them from witnessing
everything. The roofs of unmistakable Irish Cabins were covered
with the families that occupied them, "barrin' the pigs"
who left themselves snouted around after the manner of pigs in general.
The policemen seemed to also have an aerial beat watching foolhardy
burglars who had designs on the Virgin and the Scales.
In yet another part of my view, were those lovers smitten by the
day's romance and whispering sweet nothings into each others ears,
whilst Pat seated beside his pretty Colleen, near the chimney, pressed
her for a date with the priest. They would all bless the wonderful
professor for inaugurating so admirable and improved a ceremony.
Finally gaining a better view myself I caught sight of the great
balloon swaying to and fro on its platform turned cathedral for
the day. It was located in the center of the platform and it too
seemed anxious for the event to begin, sharing the impatience of
the crowd. To reach the platform one was to pass through a passage
formed by a row of evergreens on either side, at which end was a
floral arch. From the tops of the arch are suspended tassels of
white and silver, forming the ends of a true lovers knot.
The platform was carpeted to the edge, and surrounded by rows of
seats arranged for the privileged spectators. Professor Thaddeus
S. C. Lowe and his assistants were at work all the previous night
I am told, making preparations, and by the time people started pouring
in, all was in readiness. I was captivated by the swaying of this
heavenly flier held back by sandbags attached to the ropes, which
prevented it from taking off without the bride and bridegroom.
Beneath the swelling balloons web like network that enclosed it,
hung suspended the bridal car. This matrimonial basket was in striking
contrast to the modest basket used to serve the city in other service
years past. I observed its opening faced the Sixth Street entrance.
It is made of wickerwork through which are interlaced the iron wires
to the hooks of which the ropes of the balloon are attached. This
hymeneal altar basket is six feet long by four and one half feet
wide and two and one half feet deep to the seat. The bottom of the
car is carpeted and the cushioned seats are covered with rich green
flowered satin, stretching around it and up to the edge. The cords
from the concentrating ring are of alternating red, white, and blue
silk wound around with colored cords and strapped with velvet. Silken
twisted ropes of red and green cross these cords, thus making a
network, which combines great beauty with considerable strength.
On the top a canopy of blue and silver damask covered the car, and
reaches to within about six feet of the bottom, from which wonderful
lace curtains are hung, and the entire getup is then surrounded
by the stars and stripes. These curtains are then gathered together
and drawn aside with cords and tassels of union colors. The wicker
car itself is covered with folds of crimson and gold damask, which
contrast admirably with the decorations. When the curtains are drawn
aside one can get a full glimpse of the couples inside.
It is seldom that such a marriage ceremony would ever even take
place in such a car, and surely one could say that never has there
been one so tastefully decorated to celebrate such a momentous occasion.
As the hour grew near the intensity of the crowd began to peak.
Anyone daring to show up gaily attired was immediately assumed to
be "The One" only to be quickly dismissed as soon as another
came along. Time seemed to have slipped past the appointed hour
and the anxious crowd began to wonder what might have gone wrong?
"Had they lost their courage?" "Had they been fixed
in the eye by an Ancient Mariner and forced to listen to strange
adventures of the sea?" "Or was this all just an elaborate
At a half past three a cheer went up from the plebeians and I glanced
towards the street to see the carriages rolling up to the Fifth
Street entrance of the enclosure. Soon there was another and the
upper crust exclaimed "Ah Bravo!" Alive they were again
with cheers, and then the rush and crush, and the hurry and the
bustle, all to be the first to see the bride. From the first carriage
some ladies descended but none were she. And then amidst more cheers,
from the second coach she did depart, and immediately a thousand
eyes peered into to her face, as if to take a photographic portrait
to memorialize her face.
The wedding Party, Prof. Boynton, Prof.
Lowe and Miss Jenkins.
name is Miss Mary West Jenkins, daughter of the late Richard Jenkins
Esq. Of Northampton, Virginia. When she was an infant she lost both
of her parents and was adopted by J. L. West, of St. Louis. This
lovely creature graduated from Montecillo Seminary in Illinois.
Her forte is music and drawing, and while I mention drawing, let
me say now, that the hands of artists from the illustrated papers
are busily sketching away the scenes before them, preparing for
bride was accompanied by her husband to be, and both were led to
the carpeted area, where they then proceeded down the path between
the evergreens towards the car. In front of them lovely young ladies
in white and silver spangled dresses strewed flowers before their
When Miss Jenkin's passed by me, I was able to get full view of
her dress which was in good taste sufficient to stamp herself a
lady. It was of the richest poplin of the most unusual and beautiful
tint known as ashes of roses. It is trimmed with rich velvet, just
a shade darker and her hat and gloves all matched. She had on oriental
pearl earrings and a darling turquoise broach. Though perhaps her
dress was a bit unusual for a bride, one must remember the circumstances
of the wedding and it will readily be excusable.
I could hear the whispers of other young women in the audience dreamily
designing dresses of their own, were they in the circumstances of
the day. "I would wear sky blue" and "rose would
be my choice." Her dress was not all that was surmised as comments
were made like, "she had star like eyes," and "a
celestially inclined nose," and "a face like a full moon."
It all seemed balloonatic to me, as a beautiful sight she was, and
needed not to be compared to any heavenly body.
Miss Jenkin's complexion was fresh and her hazel eyes were clear,
and above her brow her silky brown hair was frizzed in front and
led to the irrepressible waterfall in the back, which contrasted
nicely with her neck of swanlike whiteness. A sweet smile hovered
over the twenty-two year olds lips, transforming this tall and commanding
figure of a woman, into an angelic looking bride.
On her side was the bridegroom, a Dr. John F. Boynton of Syracuse,
who appeared from the beginning with the most satisfied look on
his face. Here to the questions and comments danced around my ears.
"Who is he?" and "What does he do?" of course
there were the, "Hmmm isn't he the handsome one?" and
the sighs, "Oh, I wish it were me." I must say I was rather
taken myself by this gentleman easily passable for an English Lord
or a Major General. In fact Dr. Boynton was a graduate of Syracuse
as a medical man, but for the last eight years has been doing the
lecture circuit on the subject of geology, which is more to his
particular liking. He has also earned a high reputation as a surveyor
frequently commissioned to the United States government to survey
mining tracts throughout the country.
Though he wore a plain suit of black, his happy demeanor more than
overcame the somber color.
Now the couple reached the end of the path and took note of the
motto above the floral arch, "Ever Thus." Many an inward
wish echoed the mute letters, which formed the motto and hoped thus
it would always be. "Ever Thus" might the bride and groom
live and love and look into one another's eyes and be happy. Mine
own eyes partook a tear at this point, thinking my own thoughts
of "Ever Thus."
But quickly wipe away that tear, as this happy occasion is near
to take to the heavens. There were not less then six thousand persons
in the enclosure, while outside the ticket holders were legion.
The bridal party was now on the platform. The reverend Talmage was
unable to be present during the balloon tour so the ceremony was
preformed before hand. Miss Jenkins then stepped into the car, followed
by her lord and master, as they say, other family members, and lastly
Professor Lowe. After a short speech the couple joined hands and
the usual vows were spoken.
Professor Lowe was unable to procure in this city or Philadelphia
sufficient aid for the manufacture of pure hydrogen and was compelled
to fall back on common street gas. In consequence of this, the balloon
would carry only four passengers, which in my mind presented a much
more romantic flight. The other family members left the car, leaving
the bride, the groom, and Professor Lowe.
The bridal party starting on its aerial
tour from Prof. Lowe's amphitheatre, Central Park, November
Photographed by Brady
was time to reach for the heavens and amidst the heavy cheers it
was affecting to witness the tender leave takings of the bride before
the car began to rise. Then all hands were removed from the ropes
and the balloon began to rise buoyantly up into the air in a northwesterly
direction. Cheer upon cheer went up from the crowd to chase the
ears of those within the heaven bound balloon. "Godspeed."
Some shouted. It was near deafening the roar, and soon yet scarcely
two thousand feet above the earth the airship changed its course
moving in a semicircle first north and then northeast. The shades
of evening were fast falling upon the scene and when last observed
the balloon was moving northeast direction.
Aboard the craft, a marriage contact was brought out, and the Holy
Writ signed by bride and groom and witnessed by the professor. A
wedding cake ornamented in the highest style of confectionary had
been kindly presented by Messer's Stetson and Bradford of the Casino
as well as a basket of wine, which was toasted in the highest of
places. The cake was decorated in the likeness of the balloon, complete
with colored flags.
That was the last I saw of the Boyntons and though, had I chose
to follow up the affair, I would not have been reprimanded in the
least, I instead chose to leave it as it was. A happy and loving
couple dashed away into the clear and cloudless night for a romantic
flight to a wedding made in heaven.
Editor: The article states that "the balloon landed later
as softly as a snowflake and without any difficulty in Mount Vernon
around sunset. They returned to the city that night by the 8:10
train and then drove to the Fifth Avenue Hotel where they will remain
for some time. The balloon car was brought back and put on exhibition.
The complications of 0not having gas available to the Professor
led him to design and patent new ways of producing the fuel earning
him the Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute, however that
is another story.