Lowell Thomas on Sepik River, New Guinea.
First "High Adventure with Lowell Thomas"
Originally Campbell Ewald Company, Inc.
Broadcast Date: November 12, 1957
Movie Shorts Online
High Adventure Photos
Lowell Thomas was one of the first radio and television broadcasters and was a long time narrator of Fox Movietone News. His signature radio sign-on of "Good Evening Everybody" and sign-off of "So Long Until Tomorrow" were among the best known in broadcast history and were the titles he chose for the two volumes of autobiography he wrote. His radio program "Lowell Thomas and the News" ran from September 29, 1930 to May 14, 1976 and was the longest running radio program in history at nearly forty-six years. Lowell Thomas is also primarily credited with making T.E. Lawrence "Lawrence of Arabia" world famous after World War I. Lowell had a strong deep voice and was an excellent writer authoring over sixty books. He lived from April 6, 1892 to August 29, 1981. Book/Movie List.
Lowell (Jackson) Thomas was born in Woodington, Ohio April 6, 1892. His parents, Harry George Thomas and Harriet Wagner, were married July 30, 1890 and were both school teachers at the time of Lowell's birth. Later in 1892 Lowell's father moved the family to Cincinnati, Ohio so he could attend medical school and become a doctor. After graduation the family moved to Kirkman, Iowa where Dr. Thomas opened a medical practice. At the urging of Dr. Thomas' older brother Cory, who was a mining engineer, the family moved to Victor, Colorado, a gold mining boom town in need of a doctor, in 1900 when Lowell was eight. Lowell had two sisters, Helen, who died in infancy (1901-1903) and Pherbia (1904-1981).
Lowell’s first friend in Victor was his Uncle Cory’s son Carl, who was a year older and with whom he would play marbles, build a miniature gold mine and go exploring. In April 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt visited Victor and Lowell met and shook hands with him in a receiving line. Five months later, T.R. would become President after the assassination of President McKinley. Also on June 6, 1904, Lowell witnessed from his father’s medical office window the mining labor riot that resulted in the death of sixteen people and caused Lowell’s Uncle Cory to leave Victor with his family and cousin Carl.
Lowell attended Garfield Elementary and had a paper route delivering the Victor Daily Record in downtown Victor and nearby Goldfield and later added delivery of The Denver Post. The primary purpose of the paper route was to raise money for the purchase a burro which he later did.
In the spring and summer of those early years in Victor Lowell’s father would take him on long hikes collecting flowers and rocks for Dr. Thomas’ collections. Lowell indicates being thrilled at finding fossils and exposed crystals on those hikes with his father1. Later on his father bought a three-inch telescope and on clear winter nights would wake Lowell and his sister Pherbia to see the spectacular night sky Victor enjoyed from its rarefied atmosphere at 9,800 feet above sea level.
In the 1906-07 school year when Lowell was in the tenth grade, he had his favorite teacher Mabel Barbee (Lee), who years later would write a biographical history of the early days of the Cripple Creek/Victor area called Cripple Creek Days and a follow-up called Return to Cripple Creek with Lowell Thomas writing the Introduction to both of these books.
During the summer of 1906 Lowell worked for the mining companies including the Empire State and Tornado mines and had many jobs including mucker, trammer, driller and ore sorter and also worked as an assay rider for the Portland mine during the summers of 1908 and 1909. Lowell loved his experiences growing up in Victor and felt that listening to the miners, while he was an ore sorter, telling their fevered stories about the quest for gold in far off places combined with the spectacular mountain scenery of Victor, located near Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains, gave him his life long desire for and love of adventure. Also while in Victor Lowell's father made him practice public speaking and he read extensively from his father’s library, which contributed to his thirst for knowledge and adventure.
By the summer of 1907 Lowell's father concluded the gold mines in Victor were giving out and that it was time to move on so he sent his family back to Greenville, Ohio while he looked for a new opportunity in the northeast. During the third week of Lowell's junior year of high school in Greenville an important event occurred when the members of his class had to make a speech before a school assembly. Lowell's speech, reciting Wendell Phillips's tribute to Toussaint L'Ouverture, was so well received he was elected captain of the football team the following week and it gave him more self confidence than he had ever had up to that time. By the summer of 1908 Lowell's father had not found another suitable opportunity so the family returned to Victor. Lowell spent his senior year at Victor High School where he was a founding member and senior editor of the school paper named The Sylvanite. He graduated from Victor High School in 1909 and gave the commencement address, a speech about President Taft, for his class of thirteen, spending the summer working as an assay rider for the Portland mine.
In the fall of 1909 Lowell went to the University of Northern Indiana in Valparaiso, locally known as Valpo, where he attended classes for two years from 1909 to 1911 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree by taking a double class load. He spent the summer of 1910 on the road in a horse and buggy selling updated road maps in Indiana and Illinois with a Valpo classmate, Preston Burtis. While in Elgin, Illinois that summer attending the Elgin Road Race, Lowell would meet speed dare devil Barney Oldfield, future Indianapolis 500 winner Ralph DePalma, and future World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, all drivers in the Elgin Road Race. Also while a student at Valpo, Lowell would listen to speeches by famous politician William Jennings Bryan and British Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. After graduation in June 1911, Lowell returned to his parents home in Victor, Colorado.
Back in Victor when no other job was immediately available Lowell began working as a mucker at the Portland Mine. Within months, Lowell was offered his first job in journalism as a reporter with the Victor Daily Record by owner George Kyner. About six months later Lowell accepted the position of editor at the then newly formed Victor News. In the fall of 1912, Lowell went back to school for a year at the University of Denver earning another Bachelors and Masters degree. While at the University of Denver, Lowell would make acquaintance with Fran Ryan whom he would later marry.
After spending the early summer of 1913 working as a cowboy at a ranch in southwest Colorado that his father had acquired, Lowell decided for reasons that remained a mystery to him all his life2 to go to Chicago and study law. Before the end of July and without having applied to any law schools, Lowell departed for Chicago. The first thing he did upon arrival in Chicago was go to newspaper row and get a job as a reporter with the Chicago Evening Journal. While at that Evening Journal job interview Lowell was able to arrange for a place to stay and get a reference to the dean of the Kent College of Law, which he attended that fall, also becoming a part time professor in the department of forensic oratory. His first assignment as a reporter for the Evening Journal was to interview the country's most prominent black leader, Booker T. Washington and one of the guest speakers Lowell had multiple times for his forensic oratory class was the legendary attorney Clarence Darrow. During the summer of 1914, on a trip to the west coast to write a series of travel articles about the scenic wonders of the west for the Santa Fe and Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroads, which would include his first trip to what would become his life long love, the great state of Alaska, Lowell Thomas stopped off in Denver and asked Fran Ryan to marry him. Fran declined, saying they had not even dated while attending the University of Denver together, so Lowell continued on with his trip out west, returning to Chicago at the end of the summer where he would continue with his reporting position at the Evening Journal and second year of law school. In 1915 he would witness the tragic sinking of the Great Lakes excursion steamer Eastland in the Chicago river on July 24, in which 844 of the approximately 2,500 passengers would loose their lives. Later during the summer of 1915 Lowell Thomas would take a motion picture camera on a second trip to Alaska to record the events of the trip and on the returning portion would also visit the Grand Canyon and have a second visit with Fran Ryan in Denver with whom he had been corresponding since his marriage proposal the year before.
Upon his return to Chicago, Lowell Thomas had an acceptance letter from Princeton, which he attended during the 1915-1917 school years, also becoming the interim speech professor at the University. While at Princeton, Lowell Thomas began giving narrated shows of the movies he had taken in Alaska. During the summer of 1916 and for the next school year, Lowell invited his mother and sister Pherbia to stay with him in Princeton while his father was away volunteering his services to the surgical staff of the London General Hospital during World War I. Also in 1916 after graduating from the University of Denver Fran Ryan accepted Lowell's marriage proposal in the fall and after teaching all six grades in a one-room schoolhouse near Castle Rock south of Denver for a year married Lowell in the summer of 1917. They had one son, Lowell Thomas Junior, born in London October 6, 1923 and were married fifty-eight years until her death in 1975. Early in 1917, Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, invited Lowell Thomas to give his Alaska presentation to a conference of western governors and dignitaries for a "See America First" travel campaign. To prepare for the conference presentation, Lowell Thomas traveled to New York looking for a public speaking coach. There he met Dale Carnegie, who would go on to fame as the author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, and worked with him to modify his presentation for the conference, which was a great success resulting in Secretary Lane asking Lowell Thomas to head the new "See America First" campaign.
The United States entry into World War I on April 6, 1917 put the "See America First" campaign on hold and Secretary Lane suggested to Lowell Thomas that a good reporter was needed in Europe to report the war news back to the United States. Lowell Thomas traveled back to Chicago to raise funds for the trip and would also hire his long time cameraman, Harry Chase, to accompany him on the trip. Within two weeks he had raised $100,000 and began to finalize plans for the trip. On August 4, 1917 Lowell Thomas and Fran Ryan were married in Denver and a few day later they set out for Europe along with Harry Chase. After several months in France, they moved on to Italy. There Fran would volunteer with the Red Cross and Lowell would begin hearing reports of the British war campaign in the Middle East led by the newly installed British General Edmund Allenby. In January 1918, Lowell and Harry moved on to Egypt to begin covering the British activities there. On the streets of Cairo, Lowell Thomas would first see T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and soon began accompanying him and reporting on his war activities with the Arabs. Lowell Thomas would later write a book about the time he spent with Lawrence titled With Lawrence in Arabia, which would go on to more than 100 printings.
Lowell Thomas would become world famous bringing the story of T.E. Lawrence and British General Edmund Allenby first to audiences in New York city, then London and later around the world. This was just after the end of World War I, in 1919, before sound had been added to pictures, so Lowell would stand at the side of the movie screen stage and narrate the movies he and his cameraman had taken of Lawrence and Allenby. A wall size poster of the Lawrence of Arabia show is on display in a room on the second floor of the Lowell Thomas Museum in Victor, Colorado. The narrated movie presentation brought the audience into the war campaign and imparted a great sense of adventure. Lowell Thomas would begin his London presentation with these words:
In the summer of 1949 Lowell Thomas set out on his most thrilling and unusual trip of all4 across the Himalayas to the remote country of Tibet, granted access to visit by the Dalai Lama, ruler of Tibet at that time. In Tibet, the Dalai Lama was considered the living Buddha and worshipped as the spiritual leader. Lowell Thomas writes at the time of his visit only six Americans had ever previously seen him.5
Lowell Thomas traveled by plane from New York via the Pacific ocean to met his son, Lowell Junior, in Calcutta, India and together they set out July 31st with their supplies by train to Siliguri in northeastern India, and from there by truck to Gangtok, capital of the then independent country of Sikkim, which voted to join India in 1975. In Gangtok, Lowell and Lowell Junior were joined by Tsewong Namgyal, a Tibetan who was to be their interpreter. Together they all set out for Lhasa, capital of Tibet, by pack mule on August 5th. Three hundred miles and four weeks later, through the rugged Himalayan mountains, crossing multiple passes as high as 15,000 feet with sixteen miles covered by Yak-skin boat near the end, they arrived in Lhasa.
In a brief ceremonial meeting, Lowell and Lowell Junior met the Dalai Lama, a meeting that Lowell Thomas described "would live on in our memories forever".6 Lowell Thomas was allowed to take the first color and motion pictures of the Dalai Lama and also recorded the first radio broadcasts from Tibet and first ever broadcasts made anywhere with battery powered equipment. Also while in Lhasa, Lowell Thomas Junior proposed to Tay Pryor, in Greenwich, Connecticut by short-wave radio, she accepted and nine months later in May 1950 they were married.
On September 12th the Thomas party set out on their return journey along with a Tibetan trader and his two half broken horses. On the fifth day out, while attempting to mount one of the horses, Lowell Thomas was thrown over the edge of the steep mountain trail they were traveling on, breaking his hip in eight places and nearly ending his life. Lowell Thomas writes that without Lowell Thomas Junior's resourcefulness and determination he never would have made it out alive.7 Three weeks later, after being carried out by teams of four Tibetan bearers in an improvised sedan chair, the Thomas' party reached Gangtok on October 8th and from there flew to Calcutta in an Air Force plane. Lowell Thomas would fly on to London and then to New York, completing an around the world journey, before having surgery at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center to repair his broken hip. After less than a year of rehabilitation, Lowell Thomas had fully recovered from his injury. Lowell Thomas Junior wrote a book about this trip titled Out of this World: Across the Himalayas to Forbidden Tibet. The Thomas's also produced a 75 minute documentary about the trip in 1954 titled Out of this World with Lowell Thomas narrating and memorabilia from the trip is on display in the Lowell Thomas Communications Center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Later in his career, Lowell Thomas would be a co-founder of Cinerama, invented by Fred Waller. Cinerama was developed to give the audience the sense of actually being at the time and place of the image being presented on the screen. Cinerama had/has an extra wide curved screen requiring three film projectors and an expanded sound system, a forerunner of today's surround sound. There are three movie theaters showing films in Cinerama; the Cinerama Theatre in Seattle, ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood and Pictureville Cinema in Bradford, England.
From 1957 to 1959 Lowell Thomas was host of the High Adventure television series produced for the CBS network. The series was filmed in some of the remotest spots on earth and won a Christopher Award for excellence in television programming for family viewing. The first show was about New Guinea titled "The Land That Time Forgot". Other shows featured "Burma Jack" Girsham, Alaska and a flight to Ice Station Alpha appoximately 300 miles from the North Pole. At the start of the series Newsweek magazine featured Lowell Thomas in a cover story titled "Man in Perperual Motion" November 25, 1957.
In 1976 Lowell Thomas retired from radio broadcasting on May 14 and was also awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.
Lowell Thomas was an avid skiing enthusiast. At the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York Lowell Thomas met and took skiing lessons from Erling Strom, a young Norwegian with experience teaching skiing to the Norwegian royal family. While Lowell Thomas had skied some before, he became an avid skier after the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics and would remain so for the rest of his life occasionally making his nightly radio broadcasts from ski resorts.
Lowell Thomas was married to Fran Ryan for fifty-eight years until she passed away February 16, 1975 after a long illness. Two years later on January 5, 1977 Lowell Thomas would marry Marianna Munn whom he had originally met in 1967 at the dedication of the Lowell Thomas wing of the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio. Marianna Munn had been born in Arcanum, Ohio on December 9, 1927. Prior to her marriage to Lowell Thomas, Marianna had been married to Harold D. Krickenbarger for twenty years from 1947 to 1968 and was the mother of five children with him, two sons and three daughters. From the mid 1960's and for the rest of her life Marianna Munn was a civil activist. She founded "Citizens for Moral War" in the mid 1960's in opposition to the Vietnam war and became Executive Director for ten years during the 1960's and 1970's of Bertha Spafford Vester's Spafford Children's Center Association in Jerusalem. After her marriage to Lowell Thomas ended with his death in 1981, Marianna Munn Thomas moved back to Dayton, Ohio near her birthplace in Arcanum. She remained active in civil causes including the Dayton International Peace Museum and passed away January 28, 2010 after a year long battle with kidney failure.8
Lowell Thomas passed away at his Quaker Hill home in Pawling, New York on August 29, 1981 at the age of 89.
There are two Lowell Thomas museums with memorabilia about Lowell Thomas; one the Garst Museum is near his birthplace in Greenville, Ohio and a second, the Lowell Thomas Museum is in his boyhood hometown of Victor, Colorado. Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York also has Lowell Thomas memorabilia on permanent display in their Lowell Thomas Communications Center and Lowell Thomas memorabilia is also featured at the John Kane House in Pawling, New York. The primary sources for this biography were the two auto biographical books Lowell Thomas wrote; the first Good Evening Everybody From Cripple Creek to Samarkand and second So Long Until Tomorrow From Quaker Hill to Kathmandu and Lowell Thomas’ Victor The Man And The Town by Brian H. Levine. Lowell Thomas' papers and artifacts were donated to the James A. Cannavino Library Special Collections Department at Marist College.
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Cinerama Premiere Book - Extensive information about Cinerama from This is Cinerama Premier Book - Scott E. Norwood's Home Page.
Cinerama - Detailed information about Cinerama film process, history and restoration of Cinerama films - Wide Screen Museum.
Cinerama Adventure - Website of 2002 Cinerama film Cinerama Adventure from film maker, editor David Strohmaier. Listen to Lowell Thomas' original Cinerama introduction from 1952 - C-A Productions.
Cinerama - Variety Magazine article about Cinerama restoration and Cinerama film maker, editor David Strohmaier - June 14, 1999.
Cinerama Theatre - Seattle, WA - Shows movies on Cinerama screen with lots of Cinerama information.
Pictureville Cinema - Bradford, England - Has Cinerama screen to show movies.
ArcLight Cinema - Hollywood, CA - Has Cinerama screen to show movies.
Garst Museum - Greenville, Ohio - A wing of the museum devoted to Lowell Thomas, also has restored birthplace home.
Lowell Thomas Museum - Victor, Colorado - Lowell Thomas' boyhood hometown along with nearby Cripple Creek.
Voices of the Past - You Tube - Lowell Thomas appears on this 1966 video about Cripple Creek.
Gold at Victor, Colorado - vimeo - About Victor, Colorado.
Marist College - Poughkeepsie, New York - Lowell Thomas memorabilia from 1949 Tibet trip on display in Lowell Thomas Communications Center - see 1987 in History.
(Marist Voices: Lowell Thomas about preservation of Lowell Thomas Collection).
John Kane House - Pawling, New York - Lowell Thomas' adult hometown has memorabilia on display at John Kane House.
Lowell Thomas - Biography with audio and photos - Cinerama Adventure.
Lowell Thomas - National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Lowell Thomas - Ohio Center for the Book - Brief biography and awards list.
Lowell Thomas - Radio Hall of Fame.
Lowell Thomas Final Radio Broadcast - May 14, 1976 - YouTube/Dennis Daily.
Lowell Thomas - Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
Who Was Lowell Thomas - Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.
Lowell Thomas: Multimedia Personified - Newspapers & Technology Dec. 2003 by Rob Carrigan publisher Cripple Creek Gold Rush newspaper.
Radio Built This Golf Course - Golfing Magazine June 1942 by G.C. Going via Quaker Hill Country Club website - about golf course LT built on his estate and left to Quaker Hill.
Roosevelt White House Team Bow to Lowell Thomas Nine in Epic Game - The Pawling Chronicle August 17, 1936 about charity fund raising baseball game between President Roosevelt's White House team and Lowell Thomas' Nine Old Men team.
Lawrence of Arabia
With Lawrence in Arabia - Lowell Thomas' book about T.E. Lawrence of Arabia available online - Internet Archive.
Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia - Clio Visualizing History - Added 5/14/2011.
Lowell Thomas with Lawrence of Arabia - PBS.
T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) - Imperial War Museum London
Lowell Thomas' Film of Lawrence of Arabia (Original ,silent, unedited, 1917, 56:14 min ) - Imperial War Museum London
T.E. Lawrence - online resources - Lawrence of Arabia resources available online.
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Movie Shorts Online
Fox Movietone News Collection - Lowell Thomas
narrator - Circa 1919-1944 - University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collection [MIRC].
Sponge Divers of Tarpon Springs Florida - 9:44 min B&W - Lowell Thomas narrator - 1932 - Cinelog/YouTube.
China Clipper Inaugural Flight - 1:22 min B&W - Lowell Thomas narrator - 11-29-1935 - YouTube.
America Marching On - 8:44 min B&W movie short about benefits of industrialization - Lowell Thomas narrator - 1937 - Internet Archive.
Frontiers of the Future - 9:57 min B&W editorial short about looking ahead in 1937 - Lowell Thomas narrator - 1937 - Internet Archive.
More Power to You - 9:08 min B&W movie short about oil production - Lowell Thomas narrator - ca. 1930's - Internet Archive.
Polaroid Dealer Film - 25:02 min B&W Polaroid dealer promotional film - Lowell Thomas narrator - 1964 - Internet Archive.
More Lowell Thomas movie shorts available online in Movie Short section on Lowell Thomas Book List page.
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Last Modified: March 21, 2013.
Origination date of page February 20, 2005.
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Version 2.2 W.A. Haugen