According to Lowe's own account, which he published decades later, there was substantial interested in being able to carry information quickly across the Atlantic. The first transatlantic telegraph cable had already failed, and it could take weeks for messages to cross the ocean via ship. So a balloon service was thought to have potential.
As a test flight, Lowe took a large balloon he'd built to Cincinnati, Ohio. He planned to fly on the eastward air currents to Washington, D.C. In the early morning of April 20, 1861 Lowe, with his balloon inflated with gas from the local gas works in Cincinnati, took off into the sky.