The headline of this article doesn’t refer to the waistlines of our readers, although I'll bet it could during this food-infused
holiday season. Rather, it refers to famous numismatists with a connection to ballooning.
Joel Orosz submitted this short piece based on some preliminary research into the topic, involving American numismatists Ebenezer Locke Mason and
J.N.T. Levick. Thanks! Who can help? Are there other numismatists who should be on this list? Any other references to numismatists in balloons?
According to F. Stansbury Haydon's Military Ballooning During the Civil War, originally
published in 1941 by the Johns Hopkins University Press, Ebenezer Locke Mason joined Col.. Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe, the Chief Aeronaut of
the Army of the Potomac' Balloon Corps (Lowe's second middle name is often incorrectly given as "Coulincourt"), and Mason served
under Lowe during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. Mason was one of only 9 trained aeronauts to serve under Lowe (p. 267), and he ably assisted Lowe
on some occasions (p. 370).
Mason was given the courtesy title of captain, (p. 270), but was paid infrequently, and finally, in the midst of the Peninsular Campaign, Mason
and another aeronaut refused to serve further until their salaries, long overdue, were paid. For this insubordination, Lowe cashiered both of them,
and Mason's career with the Army of the Potomac came to an abrupt end.
Years later, as Dave Bowers can attest, Mason wrote in one of his house organs about encountering, by chance, during the Peninsular Campaign, his
prewar numismatic buddy, Joseph Napoleon Tricot Levick, who was then also a captain in the Army of the Potomac. Mason's story is charming to
read. Levick, however, does not seem to have been part Lowe's Balloon Corps; he apparently served elsewhere in the Army of the Potomac.
Some years after that an anonymous writer in The American Stamp Mercury and Numismatist (possibly the Boston numismatist Charles Chaplin),
wrote a savage review of Mason's numismatic work in which he called Mason, probably with a wink to his ballooning past, as "one of those
high-pressure kind of human gas-bags."
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