Leontine A. Lowe
Leontine Augustine Gachon was born November 30, 1835 in Paris, France, the daughter of Louise Flavie Chazal and Leon Gachon. Her father was a palace guard for Louis Philippe, known as the "Citizen King." In 1848 the citizens of France revolted, forcing the Gachon family and Leontine, who was twelve at the time, to escape out the back door while the Republicans entered the front. Her father left Louis Philippe in London and continued with his family on to New York.
Leontine met Prof. Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe (1832-1913) in 1855, after attending one of the Professor's science shows in New York with her parents. Within a few weeks she and the Professor were wed at a justice of the peace, a marriage that the rest of their lives and produced ten children along the way. The couple took a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi on their honeymoon in 1855, performing the Professor's science shows. Then off to New York, where Thaddeus resumed his studies in aeronautics. He pioneered aerial surveillance via balloon during the Civil War, and his inventions and patents, including a process for generating large amounts of hydrogen gas from steam and charcoal, and a design for ice-making machines, made him a millionaire.
In 1887 they moved to California, in part due to his gas business and in part due to his health. The family moved into a home on South Marengo, while Thad set about building a magnificent home consisting of 23,859 square feet at 955 South Orange Grove in Pasadena. Included in the plans of the home was a large basement in which Leontine could house her many collections, including shells, butterflies, Indian baskets, rugs, rocks and minerals. She purchased, among other things, the entire personal mineral collection of J. Grier Ralston (1815-1880). Soon the basement of their Orange Grove home was filled to capacity. The Smithsonian at the time considered some of her collections to be the best of their kinds.
In 1895 a fellow Pasadenean named A.C. Vroman invited Leontine along to witness the Hopi Snake dance in the Moqui county of Arizona. While in Arizona they also took the opportunity to collect petrified wood in the area that would a few years later be designated as the Petrified Forest National Park. One of her companions wrote: "We gathered great weights of the most beautiful specimens, only to throw them away as we found others more beautiful still."
Leontine died in San Francisco on May 16, 1912 at the age of seventy-seven. The next year Thaddeus followed her. In 1917, five years after her death, her mineral collection of 6,000 specimens (including the Ralston collection, which had retained its original labels) was purchased by George L. English on behalf of Wards Natural Science Establishment.
CANFIELD, F. A. (1923) The final disposition of some American collections of minerals. Privately printed.
ANON. (2000) Leontine Lowe travels to Hopi land, 1895. Echo Mountain Echoes, vol. 5, no. 1.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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