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Lowe’s Home and Businesses

Thaddeus Lowe had already developed and sold several patents by the time he arrived in Pasadena in 1888.   His substantial capital and his unique area of expertise; the manufacturing of various gases for use by the general public on a large scale, allowed for investment in evolving industries of the times. Rooted in the need to produce hydrogen for his balloons, Lowe had experience in, and success at, creating gas in the field or in his manufacturing plants.

Before he came to the Southland Lowe discovered that creating hydrogen by shooting steam across hot coal or coke was more efficient and cost effective than his previous method. (Carbon and water and heat/pressure yield Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen). This allowed for safer and more convenient home heating and lighting and led to Lowe being awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1886 for the usefulness of his discovery to the country and the public at large.

He saw a great opportunity in creating ice on a large scale. Lowe put his ice creation apparatus in an old steamship and was the first to use a steamship to move fruit from New York to Galveston, Texas and ship beef back (without it being salted)!  An extraordinary advance for the times, it successfully proved the concept. Unfortunately the shipping business did not take off, but even when he did not succeed commercially, he still blazed a path for others to follow.

Lowe brought his formulas for hydrogen creation and ice manufacturing to Pasadena in 1888. He started several successful enterprises and his ice manufacturing business spread to multiple locations across the Southland.  His Citizens Bank, the first to start a bond department, stayed in existence long after his death, through the Great Depression and finally merging with the national Crocker Bank in 1963.

While the railway was his personal financial undoing, the businesses Lowe created lived on and remained successful.  A remarkable track record in the turbulent times the man and his family navigated.