''Professor'' Park Van Tassel.
On July 4, 1882, Park Van Tassel, a New Albuquerque bartender, inflated his brand new balloon at the Independence Day celebration and became the first man in New Mexico to demonstrate feats of stratospheric skill. For many years he was an itinerant balloonist not unlike the Wizard of Oz.
Two months later, both drunk, Lou pistol-whipped his friend Van Tassel for something he said to Lou's prostitute girlfriend. We have yet to learn the woman's identity, or the outcome of the ensuing trial.
Albuquerque Evening Review, March 30, 1882
Park Van Tassel's balloon is now on the way to this city from California, and will be here by the time the gas works are put in operation.
Albuquerque Evening Review, May 27, 1882
Van says he knows his balloon will be a high flyer, and he's going up if he only has a sock and a wart left by which he can be identified.
Albuquerque Evening Review, July 6, 1882
The way it was celebrated in the Central City.
Immense Crowds of People Throng the Streets.
The Balloon Ascension, Horse Races, Base Ball, Etc., Etc.
Early Tuesday morning the City of Albuquerque commenced to present a lively appearance. People flocked in from all directions. They came in wagons, on horseback, on foot and many more used burros as means of conveyance. Where all the people came from could not satisfactorily told, but they were here bent upon celebrating Independance day. The city itself was appropriately decorated and the stars and stripes swung from many a flag staff. Music floated upon the air from many places and the crack, crack of fire crackers could be heard in every direction. Saloon men did an immense business, and the efficient
which had been appointed for special duty succeeded in keeping those who drank too freely of the ardent from creating disturbances. There was no trouble during the entire day, and the quarrelsome ones, when they became too demonstrative, were taken care of without delay.
During the forenoon the crowd was centered on Second street, between Railroad and Gold avenues, to witness the inflation of Professor P.A. Van Tassel's balloon. The balloon has a capacity of thirty thousand cubic feet and
FILLED TOO SLOWLY
to satisfy the impatient crowd. As the hour advertised for the ascension came and passed and still no signs of the aeronaut starting on his journey, the people became restless and a general buzz of dissatisfaction could be heard. They could not, or would not, understand the cause for the delay and many went so far as to assert that the voyage would not be made. It became apparent that the balloon would not be cast loose from its moorings before a late hour in the afternoon, and at about 1 o'clock a procession was formed and started for
THE FAIR GROUNDS
to witness the races and other sports which had been made up. Every street car was crowded to its utmost capacity for the next two hours and the grounds were rapidly filled up...
Shortly after five o'clock word was telephoned to the old town that the balloon would start on its
at 6:15 precisely. This announcement was made from the grand stand and the crowd again started for new town. Although the balloon was scarcely two-thirds full Professor Van Tassel decided to risk the trip rather than disappoint the people who had waited so long to witness the ascension. At the appointed time everything was in readiness and the bold navigator of the air stepped into the basket. It was found that the "City of Albuquerque" would not carry her captain with more than forty-five pounds of ballast, let alone any passengers, so she was turned loose with
ONLY HIM ON BOARD.
The balloon rose high above the house tops and moved slowly to the south, when it appeared to stop its lateral motion, and went straight up among the clouds. Another current of air was struck and the ship commenced to descend and landed safely
IN A CORN FIELD
in the rear of the fair grounds. As soon as it was seen just where Prof. Van Tassel would alight, quite a number of men started for the place on horse-back, and a JOURNAL scribe obtained a conveyance in which to bring back the aeronaut and his balloon.
The professor was found, none the worse for his voyage, busily engaged in emptying the balloon of the gas. This was soon accomplished and the party with their ship safely loaded started for the new town arriving at the starting point at 9 o'clock.
A GRAND OVATION
was awaiting the party at the Elite and many and loud were the expressions of congratulations with which Van was greeted. All united in saying that the ascension was a success in every sense of the word.
Just as the balloon was leaving its moorings, Professor Van Tassel emptied a bag of sand, which struck one of the spectators on the head, completely covering him.
State's first manned balloon lifted off in 1882
By Scott Smallwood
Journal Staff Writer
On the morning of July 4, 1882, a bright, clear day in Albuquerque, crowds flocked to a vacant lot near Gold and Second to witness a bit of history.
There more than two decades before the Wright brothers first flew their airplane on a North Carolina beach New Mexicans had come to watch, as the newspaper ads had been proclaiming for weeks, "man's dominion over the very air he breathes." Professor Park A. Van Tassel, a tall, blond bartender, had recently purchased a balloon in California. As part of the Fourth of July festivities, he was scheduled to make the first manned balloon flight in New Mexico history.
C.W. Talbott, the gas works operator, had started filling the balloon at 5 p.m. the day before. On the morning of the Fourth of July, he still was filling it.
Christened "The City of Albuquerque," the 30,000-cubic-foot balloon was made of goldbeater's skin, a fabric made from the intestines of cattle. A net of hemp rope held the balloon to a wicker gondola. The launch, with Van Tassel and newspaper reporter John Moore as his passenger, was scheduled for 10 a.m.
The crowd, numbered in the thousands by local reporters, gathered early. Impatiently, they waited. And waited some more. The appointed time came and went, and still the balloon would not fill. Some thought the delay was a ploy by saloon owners to prevent the crowds from fleeing to Fourth of July celebrations in Old Town. Murmurs that the flight would never happen rippled through the crowd.
Note: Like Albuquerque, Denver had a balloon ascension as part of its July Fourth celebration in 1882. Piloted by the redoubtable Prof. Brayton, the Belle of Denver lifted off from the fair grounds before a crowd of some 2000 people. The following tells us why two reporters remained earthbound, contrary to expectations:
Rocky Mountain News, July 4, 1882
Why They Didn't Go Up.
Clarke and Tilden, the two newspaper reporters who announced that they would ascend with Brayton, were not, as was generally supposed, restrained by the fear of any evil consequences to themselves. Both were on hand before the balloon ascended and had an earnest consultation with Prof. Brayton. Each of them was provided with a vast amount of baggage, evidently expecting that the journey would be a very long one, probably to some European country. Clarke was provided with a volume entitled "Ten Modern Languages in Ten Easy Lessons."
"Why gentlemen," said Prof. Brayton, "it is preposterous to expect this balloon to ascend with three men and so much or indeed any unnecessary baggage."
Each brave jouranlist looked at his pile and began to cast about as to what could be dispensed with.
"I would like to take this ulster," said Tilden, "as it has often been put up without experiencing any inconvenience from the weight, but I suppose I'll have to get along without it."
With this the coat was stripped from the remainder of the baggage which stood revealed in all its native simplicity a stout demijohn.
"I have been prejudiced against aeronauts since Donalson is said to have thrown Grimwood over into Lake Michigan, and I would like to take this little howitzer with me," said Clarke, "but I will be content with a dirk. I am also convinced of the advisability of taking this tent along and the cooking stove, but as they are in the way of luxuries, here they go," and he threw them one side. Another huge demijohn was revealed by this.
"Gentlemen," said Prof. Brayton, "I fully appreciate the concessions you have made, and I only regret that I cannot carry your baths with a balloon of this size, and I know that you will readily yield to the discomfort of going without them. Remember we may not be up more than a month and many persons have been known to go without bathing even longer than this without suffering any great injury."
"'B-a-t-h-s'" exclaimed both at once, "why just take a nip of that and see what sort of bath it would make. Reg'lar old sour mash."
"I had a cut of pie wrapped up in that tent," said Clarke, "and I have willingly set it aside. I am now willing to compromise the matter of the whisky by taking only three gallons." This was said with the air of a man who was willing to do almost anything for the purpose of not being considered a kicker.
"I would like," said Tilden, "to be equally obliging but I could not dream of starting on so long a journey with so small a quantity of the necessary of life. Five gallons is my ultimatum."
Prof. Brayton argued with the men for a further reduction in the quantity of spirits, but unavailingly. They had drawn the line at the quantities named and would not be content with less, and the aeronaut was obliged to go alone.
Albuquerque Morning Journal, August 8, 1882
Prof. P. A. Van Tassell has returned from Las Vegas, having made arrangements for a balloon ascension there about August 15th. Las Vegas merchants subscribed liberally.
Albuquerque Morning Journal, August 16, 1882
The Aeronauts Balloon Bursts Before It Is Inflated.
Yesterday was the day that P. A. Van Tassell, of this city, was to make his balloon ascension from Las Vegas. His scheme proved unfortunate as the following from yesterday morning's Las Vegas Gazette will show: "The work of filling the balloon commenced at 9:30 a.m. and went forward nicely until all the available gas was used. The valves were then closed to await the manufacture of more gas. The balloon was about half inflated and contained 16,000 feet of gas. It rolled and tossed about at every breeze like some huge sea serpent, but was held steadily in its place by the sand bags and other fastenings. About 3 o'clock a dark rain cloud was noticed in the north, which betokened evil to the balloon. Its managers anxiously watched the movements of the cloud until 4 o'clock when a strong gale of wind swept down over the ill-fated airship, which sprnag into the air like a rubber ball, carrying with it all its moorings. She fell against the east side park fence, cutting a number of holes in the canvas. In a moment the gas had escaped and the entire work of the day was lost. It was the intention of Mr. Van Tassel to let the balloon rest until night and then complete the work of inflation. This programme, however, was suddenly thwarted and the work of repairing had to be commenced. The affair is a very unfortunate one, both for Prof. Van Tassel and for the people who expected to witness the ascension to-day.
Albuquerque Morning Journal, August 18, 1882
Van Tassell's Balloon Refuses to Leave the Earth in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Gazette of yesterday morning has the following to say concerning Van Tassell and his balloon:
"Professor Van Tassell yesterday made strenuous efforts to ride the air with his ship, but did not succeed in getting it up to any great height. The conditions seemed to be against him. Several times he got started, but each time came down in a short distance and pulled the air vessel back to the place of beginning. A lare crowd of spectators were kept interested in the efforts to fly away until near night. The balloon is full of gas, and she looks like she ought to move off majestically, but she don't. It is likely that one great trouble is the altitude of this place, which necessarily causes a light and thin atmosphere. Balloons in the states could soar a mile high and then not reach the starting point of this one. Prof. Van Tassell made a successful ascent at Albuquerque, but there he had the advantage of a thousand feet over this place. Ordinary illuminating gas is too nearly the same weight as our atmosphere to be a perfectly reliable medium for balloon ascensions. It would have to be very pure to be sufficiently light. The professor will make another attempt this morning to get his balloon in motion in the air."
The attempt was made again yesterday but proved a failure and Van gave up the project, having learned by experience that it is impracticable to make balloon ascensions from altitudes as high as Las Vegas. It is said that Van Tassell will lose nothing by his venture, as the people who subscribed to pay him for making the ascension will not refuse to donate their subcriptions as the failure was no fault of the aeronaut.
Albuquerque Morning Journal, Sept. 12, 1882
A disreputable fight occurred Sunday morning in the opium den near the corner
of Fourth street and Railroad avenue between a gambler and a disreputable woman.
The woman proved herself to be the best man. These hop joints are becoming the
worst kind of nuisances, and some means should be devised to remove them, or at
least to keep them orderly.
Albuquerque Evening Review, Sept. 12, 1882
IN A BAGNIO.
Lou Blonger assaults Park Van Tassel and Will Roast on the Legal Gridiron
Early this morning a party of three men, Lou Blonger and Park Van Tassel being two of them, went on a sightseeing expedition and in the course of their rambles reached that unsavory portion of Fourth street, north of Railroad avenue, occupied for the most part by houses which sell virtue by retail. One of them, kept by Blonger's woman, the trio entered, and began to amuse themselves, Van Tassel and the woman commencing a jocular conversation. Some remark used by Van Tassel angered Blonger, who without warning brought down his heavy stick on the
aeronaut's head, following this blow by another and a heavier one with a long 45 revolver, which he drew immediately, in the same place. Springing back he then cocked the gun and threw it down on Van Tassel, with the exclamation.
"You s of a b, you can't talk to my woman in that way."
Van Tassel had jumped up when struck the first time, but the second blow stunned him and he fell to the floor. Blonger attempted no further violence, and the wounded man was taken to the office of a physician where his wounds were dressed.
This morning a warrant was issued for Blonger's arrest on the charge of assault with intent to kill. He was arrested, waived examination and was [held?] over in the sum of 3500 to appear at the October [district court?].
NOTE: "Blonger's woman," otherwise unidentified, would appear to be a perfect match for the notorious Kitty Blonger.
NOTE: Our first encounter with Van Tassel was in transcribing this article. We blithely skipped over the word "aeronaut," thinking it just LOOKED like it said "aeronaut."
Albuquerque Morning Journal, Sept. 12, 1882
Lou Blonger and P. A. Van Tassell
w[...] row in
m[...] Van Tassel [...] worst of
[...] Blonger was arrest-
ed [...] action
of [...] He gave bonds in
the [...] for his appearance.
Washington Post, December 22, 1884
A Balloon Marriage Projected.
From the San Francisco Call
The largest balloon which has ever been built on this coast is at present being constructed under the supervision of P. A. Van Tassel, an experienced aeronaut, at the engine-house of the Sutter-street Railroad Company. Its foundation was laid at the Mechanics' Pavilion fifty-six days ago, the work having been continued ever since. It required eight seamstresses to sew it together in ten days. It is 110 feet in height, fifty-eight feet in diameter, and has a carrying capacity of 2,800 pounds. When inflated it will hold 85,000 feet of gas. It weighs 900 pounds, the basket alone weighing 150 pounds. It is made of cloth specially manufactured for balloons, and is very light, besides being extra strong. Mr. Van Tassell has made twenty-four successful ascensions, and feels confident that on the 30th instant, when he ascends from Central Park in this City, he will accomplish one of the longest trips ever made on this coast. He has crossed the Wahsatch mountains from Salt Lake, having traveled 142 miles in six hours and thirty-two minutes. He will take with him a young couple, who will be united in marriage during the aerial voyage, provide a priest or justice of the peace can be found who will be willing to risk his life on such a trip.
Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1887
Because Somebody Had Been Monkeying with the Pipe.
A Disappointed Crowd Inside and Out of the Grounds.
Revilings Loud and Deep Against the Man Who Shut Off the Gas with a Plug of Sand and Gravel Silly Charges Against the "Chronicle."
About 4000 people gathered in and around the Sixth-street base-ball grounds yesterday to witness the ascension of Prof. Van Tassell in his monster balloon, and also to enjoy a very interesting game of base-ball between the Los Angeles Club and the San Luis Obispo nine. At six o'clock yesterday morning the gas was turned on through a four-inch pipe, and the managers were positive that the balloon would be inflated long before noon. Several hours after the gas was turned on, it was noticed that the monster airship was not filling as rapidly as she should, and the superintendent of the gas works was sent for. The management was about to give him a piece of its mind in true Examiner style, when some one discovered that the pipe where it was attached to the cloth conductor leading to the balloon had been plugged up with sand and rocks. This was a revelation that had not been anticipated and a general pow-wow was indulged in by all of the big men of the management. The Examiner managers were very profuse in their abuse of the wretch who had played such a joke on them, but they would not say openly whom they suspected. Outsiders were not at all backward in giving the Chronicle a blessing. They got right up and swore by all that was holy that the mysterious Chronicle man ought to be mobbed. A plumber and gasfitter was looked up, and two two-inch pipes were placed as soon as possible and the gas was again turned on. The balloon began to fill slowly, and the Examiner management announced to the immense crowd that had commenced to arrive at that time that the airship would go up as soon as the base-ball game had been played. The crowd which had paid its money to get inside took things good-naturedly, but the audience on the outside became very uneasy, especially when the balloon did not fill so rapidly as it should.
When the game was ended the balloon was not more than half full, and the management again had to make a humiliating announcement. The good-natured crowd was informed that the ascension would be made promptly at 7:30 o'clock, and the gatekeepers were instructed to hand each one of the audience a check, and they were dismissed. The excursionists were notified that their trains would not leave until 8 o'clock. As the people from the country took their deoarture they indulged in a good deal of complaint, and several of them hinted at mobbing the Examiner man in case the balloon did not go up at 7:30. When the thousands of people who had taken their places on the housetops and hills noticed the audience leaving the grounds they became thoroughly disgusted, and, could they have had their own way, the chances are that the Examiner management would have been mobbed without ceremony. As it was they all wended their way home, and strange as it may seem, no one returned to see the ascension at 7:30. The balloon, however, was sufficiently filled at 7 o'clock, but no one seemed to care to take a trip in the darkness at that hour, and it was decided to let the old ship cling to several hundred sandbags until 10 o'clock this morning, when the gates will be thrown open to the public, and every one who wishes to see the balloon cut loose will be admitted to the grounds, free of charge.
To make sure that there was not some "monkey business" about the four-inch pipe story, a TIMES reporter investigated the pipe, and was astonished to find that it had really been filled with small rocks and sand. This must have been done during the night, after the connections had been made, but before the gas had been turned on, for after that was done a watchman was presnt all the time. It is not known who could have an object in doing such a thing. No one, however, believes that the Chronicle would sanction such a thing.
Last night a police officer and one of Van Tassel's men were stationed in the grounds, so that there will be no doubt about the ascension this morning at 10 o'clock, as the balloon is all ready, and there is nothing further to be done, except for the persons who intend to make the ascension to step into the basket and cut the sandbags loose.
Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1888
THAT BIG JUMP.
Mrs. Van Tassel Interviewed by a San Francisco Reporter.
[San Francisco Examiner.]
It is no soft, yielding, timid shrinking wife that Prof. Van Tassell possesses.
It is unlikely that a woman who would deliberately launch herself from a balloon 6000 feet in the air and spring to the earth without being frightened would meekly get up in the morning and build a fire to please any husband. Particularly when she weighs 165 pounds and requires a 28-foot parachute to bring her safely to the ground.
On the Fourth of July Mrs. Van Tassell, escaping from the detective who had been set by the Chief of Police to prevent her ascent, mounted in her husband's balloon to a height over a mile above Los Angeles and then, without falter, launched herself out into the air and dropped.
The heroine of the long jump has returned to San Francisco. An Examiner reporter interviewed her at home on Turk street yesterday.
Mrs. Van Tassell is big, young, handsome and blonde.
Since she made the jump she has gained a commanding manner and a self-reliant carriage.
"It is only a question of nerve," said Mrs. Van Tassell, when asked about her exploit. "I made up my mind that I could jump from a balloon as well as Baldwin, and when I make up my mind to do a thing I do it. Don't I, Van?"
The Professor looked at the woman who wasn't afraid of a mile jump and meekly admitted that what she said was true.
"So, when we were over a clear place," continued the lady, "they opened the valve to hold the balloon stationary and give the 'chute a start to open a little, and then I said good-by and jumped. I had been warned that my arms would be jerked from their sockets and expected a tug, but though I dropped thirty feet like a shot before the parachute was well open, there was no shock, and I felt no great strain on my arms.
"I often dreamed of falling immense distances, and I wanted to see how it really was.
"I ain't exactly a bird nor an angel, but it's just about what I imagine the sensation of flying is. It was beautiful! Though I went through that 6000 feet in five and one-quarter minutes, I didn't seem to be going fast, and never lost my breath. I swung hundreds of feet one side and the other for the first 4000 feet, but after that I just floated down an incline to the ground, and alighted with no more shock than would be caused by jumping off a chair.
"I wasn't the least bit frightened from the start. One arm was strapped to the parachute, and there was a belt around my waist, so I could not fall away from the parachute."
"Did you do any thinking while you were falling?" asked the reporter.
"I only thought about my landing, whether I would drop on a big tree that was just under me, or on a house that I saw. I luckily missed both.
"I was anxious to get a reputation, and I did, and I expect to make a fortune by jumping from balloons. Don't I, Van?"
Prof. Van Tassell meekly acquiesced.
The National Police Gazette, August 11, 1888
MRS. PROF. VAN TASSELL
Mrs. Van Tassell recently at Los Angeles, Cal., made one of the most daring and successful balloon ascensions and parachute descents ever witnessed. She left the balloon when 6,000 feet high, and landed safely on a sandy field about a mile from where the ascent was made.
Salt Lake Herald, Friday, May 24, 1889
...A Herald reporter called upon Mr. Van Tassell last evening at the Metropolitan hotel, where he is stopping with his traveling companion and friend, S. H. Blonger, and old-time journalist of Swiss Times fame. The aeronaut is a genial gentleman and answered readily the newspaper man's queries about his career in the air...
Salt Lake Tribune, May 24, 1889
PROF. VAN TASSELL THE AERONAUT.
His Great Experience as an Aeronaut and Some of His Thrilling Perils.
Prof. P. A. Van Tassell, the aeronaut, who is to make the balloon ascension and parachute jump at Garfield Beach to-morrow and Sunday, arrived here from California a few days ago, and has since been busily engaged in completing preparations for his ascensions. Prof. Van Tassell visited Salt Lake in the summer of 1883, and it will be remembered that he made two successful ascensions in July of that year.
A TRIBUNE reporter met the daring balloonist at the Metropolitan last evening, and when asked how many ascension he had made since leaving Zion he replied, "Well, I have traveled all over the United States since then, and have made over 300 ascensions and eighteen parachute jumps."
"You are the originator of the parachute jump, are you not?" inquired the reporter.
"Yes," answered the aeronaut. "It was first attempted at Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, some two years ago."
"In making so many ascensions, you must have had some thrilling experiences."
"Yes, I have had my share. After leaving here I went up to Oregon and made several ascensions there. On the evening of September 25, 1883, in company with a reporter, I left Portland, and the air carried us directly over a burning forest. The sight, of course, was a grand one, but the situation was an unpleasant one to say the least. If the balloon had come down then it would have been sure death, but we were fortunate enough to make a safe landing and come out unburned, contrary to expectations. From there I went to San Francisco and constructed the 'Eclipse' balloon, and in company with two newspaper men, attempted to make a trip across the continent. We left Central Park, San Francisco, on November 29th, 1884, and on reaching an altitude of about 9000 feet encountered an air current that carried us out over the ocean. After we had gone out some twelve miles the situation commenced to grow desperate, and I let out gas until we dropped to about [?]000 feet, when another current was encountered and we were carried back over Goat Island, and at about 11 o'clock at night we dropped into Raccoon Straight [sic]. After splashing around in the water for some time, a ferry boat picked us up and carried us over to Angel Island. We came so near to becoming angels that the [place?] was quite appropriate. I then went to New Orleans and worked for the Exposition people. On April 15, 188[5?], I left the Exposition grounds, and after sailing over New Orleans, Algiers and other towns, finally landed in a Louisiana swamp. I went tramping around in that swamp for hours, and finally had the good fortune to strike a negro camp. The people took me in and treated me well, and but for them I would not be here to-night. After that experience, I went back to San Francisco and built an "Examiner" balloon, which has a capacity of 75,000 feet of gas. It was constructed for the purpose of taking photographs of the city at an altitude of from [1?],000 to 15,000 feet, and the results were entirely satisfactory. I then went to Seattle, and on January 2, 188[8?], made a jump from the balloon, after realizing a height of 8,500 feet. This was one of the most frightful of all my experiences. When I jumped the straps on one of my hands broke, and this caused the parachute to oscillate in such a manner that I was thrown around like a whip, and came down at an angle of forty-five degrees. I landed in the water, [so?] luckily boats were at hand and picked me up. On February 10th last at Cliff House Beach, I went up to an altitude of about 1500[?] feet and jumped. As I left the balloon my foot caught a rope and I plunged down head foremost. I soon managed to get the parachute over my head, however, and came down all right, as usual, but for a moment I thought it was all up with me."
Prof. Van Tassell received last night a new parachute, thirty feet in diameter. The attachment ropes to this concern, which the Professor unpacked to show the reporter, are thirty-six feet long, and he thinks that by having them this length, he will be able by skillfully oscillating the affair, to land just about where he wants to. He will try for the first time tomorrow.
New York Times, November 24, 1889
AERONAUT VAN TASSEL LOST.
He Dropped Into The Pacific And Was Probably Eaten By Sharks.
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 23.Prof. Van Tassel, an aeronaut, met a horrible death in Honolulu on the 16th inst. He made an ascension on that day, and on coming down in his parachute, he fell in the water and was never again seen.
The occasion was the King's birthday. There was a grand celebration, and the festivities were to conclude with an ascension and leap. Shortly before 3 o'clock Van Tassel entered his balloon alone, after all necessary preparations had been made. The conditions were favorable for his landing on the island, and when the balloon shot upward he shouted to his brothers that he would land not more than half a mile from the starting point. The balloon ascended steadily to the height of 1,000 feet, when it was caught by a breeze blowing seaward and carried over the water.
The aeronaut evidently saw that he must inevitably fall into the water, and those who were watching saw that he was hurriedly making preparations for the descent. Suddenly the parachute was let loose and the bag of gas shot up into the air. The parachute opened nicely, and the man descended gracefully into the water about two miles off shore. That is the last that has been seen of him. The steamer Zealandia was leaving the harbor at the time, and those on board saw Van Tassel fall in the water about a mile distant.
Two boats were immediately lowered, and were soon at the spot where the man was last seen. They could find no trace of him. The parachute had sunk in the water from the weight of its iron frame, and three or four monster white sharks were seen nearby swimming about. They followed the boats back to the steamer.
There seems no doubt that the sharks made away with Van Tassel. He was a daring swimmer, and under ordinary circumstances could not have drowned before the boats reached him. Van Tassel was well known throughout the United States, having made many successful ascensions and parachute descents. He was a native of New York, forty-three years old.
NOTE: The sharks did not in fact make away with the Professor. See last article.
New York Times, November 24, 1889
FROM THE ISLANDS.
BALLOONIST VAN TASSEL KILLED.
The Zealandia reports that as she entered the harbor at Honolulu November 16th, Prof. Van Tassel, the balloonist, made an ascension from the shore and dropped from the balloon in a parachute. He fell into the ocean about two miles from shore and one mile from the steamer. He was seen no more, and it is supposed he was eaten by sharks. Van Tassel left San Francisco a few weeks ago for Honolulu and Australia, where he expected to give exhibitions.
The occasion was King Kalakaua's birthday. There was a grand celebration, and the festivities were to conclude with an ascension and parachute leap. Shortly before 3 o'clock Van Tassel entered his balloon alone. The balloon ascended steadily to the height of 1,000 feet, when it was caught by a breeze blowing seaward and carried over the water. Van Tassel hurriedly made preparations for descent. The parachute was let loose and the aeronaut descended into the water about two miles off shore. That was the last that has been seen of him. Two boats were immediately lowered from the Zealandia, but they could find no trace of him. The parachute had sunk into the water from the weight of its iron frame. There seems to be no doubt that sharks devoured him.
Van Tassel was a daring swimmer, and, under ordinary circumstances he could not have drowned before the boats reached him. The search for him or his body has been continued every day since the accident. In an interview concerning the reported death of her husband at Honolulu, said she did not believe the report correct, for the reason that a man named Joe Lawrence, from Albuquerque, N. M., was travelling with Van Tassel under the name of Van Tassel, and doing all the parachute work. Van Tassel has not taken a leap since the one at the cliff house, in San Francisco, because the balloon was considered too light to carry 225 pounds to a desired height. Lawrence could not swim, while Van Tassel was a good swimmer.
New York Times, September 14, 1930
USED PARACHUTES FIFTY YEARS AGO.
Captain Van Tassell, 78, of Oakland, Cal., Tells of Early Days as Balloonist.
WIFE ALSO A JUMPER
Los Angeles Chief of Police in 1882 Tried to Prevent Her From "Committing Suicide."
Special to the New York Times.
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 13 One of the first successful parachute jumpers and one of the greatest balloonists of his time, Captain Parks Van Tassel of Oakland is trying to fight his way out of illness and bad luck after a career as an aeronaut in all parts of the world extending over fifty-one years. He is 78 years old.
"My first experience with a balloon was in the days when I was a barefoot boy on a farm in Ohio," he relates.
"I had seen a balloon ascension at a fair and together with neighbor boys resolved to have a balloon of my own. This, we constructed of paper according to what we had seen of the big balloon.
Mr. Van Tassel told of one of his first ascents when he had taken up the profession of balloonist.
"It was at Albuquerque, N. M., in 1879," he recalled. "The town was just beginning and the gas plant from which I filled my balloon was so weak it took two days to fill the balloon, during which the customers went without heat or light. But they were willing as it was the first ascension they had seen. Needless to say, I was the hero of the hour."
His Wife a Parachute Jumper.
His wife was one of the first women to make a parachute jump This was in Los Angeles on July 4, 1882, and, Mr. Van Tassel recalled, the town was thrown into an uproar, the Chief of Police championing "the good people of this town who are determined no woman shall be allowed to commit suicide on a national holiday."
"But the Mayor and a number of influential and clever persons were on my side," Mr. Van Tassel said. "So my wife went up with me and the jump was successful."
Of his own first venture in this field, he said:
"I built my first parachute from a picture in the dictionary. Parachutes had been known of course for years. In fact, men had made descents in them in France, but these were so frequently fatal that the parachutes were known as man-killers and balloonists restrained themselves with dropping at most a live pig. But I figured, if a live animal, why not a live man.
"Needless to say my parachute and my jumps with it were successful."
Became Tangled in Parachute.
In 1889, he had one of the closest calls of his career in a jump near the Cliff House in San Francisco. He leaped from a balloon and part of the parachute opened. But his legs were entangled and, according to a news clipping of the day, "the spectators were horrified to see him falling to apparent certain death."
But he kicked loosed, the parachute opened and he alighted at the edge of the tide, while the crowd cheered.
His longest flight was in 1883, in Salt Lake City. He was in the air six hours and forty-five minutes and traveled about 300 miles.
He met with all sorts of adventures on his travels. Once, in Siam, he alighted in a mulberry tree. Another time he was threatened by fanatics in India who feared he would "get them in bad" with the devils of the upper air.
In Hawaii, on his first world tour, he lost his professional brother, Joseph Lawrence, known to the public as one of the Van Tassel Brothers. Lawrence landed four miles at sea in shark-infested waters.
A set of battered scrapbooks, which have traveled thousands of miles on camels, elephants, trains, ships, and all sorts of conveyances, is a mine of material on the adventures of the nineteenth century aeronaut.
The Bangladesh Indepedent, December 7, 2001
Van Tassel, the balloon woman from America
In the Narinda Christian graveyard is buried Jeanette Van Tassel, a daredevil balloonist who enthralled thousands of amazed Dhakiites by her airborne exploits way back in 1892. Unfortunately, the exhibition ended on a tragic note as the adventurous lady met her end during her descent. During the 19th century the social life of Dhaka was centred around the Nawab and his family. The Nawabs were famous for their love for entertainment and pageantry. For the benefit of the city dwellers they often organised special events. It was because of one such initiative of the then Nawab of Dhaka Khwaja Ahsanullah that this lady was flown in from America. From the newspaper reports of that period we learn that the exhibition generated a good deal of enthusiasm among citizens. She started her ascent at 6.20 PM on 16 March 1892 in front of Ahsan Manzil. This flight by a balloon was something totally new for the people. The Nawab himself and local and foreign dignitaries witnessed the event. However, after floating high into the sky tragedy struck on her way down. To the shock of the onlookers, her balloon got entangled with a tree at the Ramna garden . The police rushed in to rescue. But while getting down holding on to a bamboo Tassel got severely injured. She died a couple of days later in a hospital. It is alleged that her misforune was the result of police apathy. So certain things have not really changed.
New York Times, October 26, 1930
CAPTAIN PARKS VAN TASSEL.
Parachute Jumper of '70s Dies of Heart Disease at 78.
OAKLAND, Cal., Oct. 25 (AP).
Captain Parks Van Tassel, who was a daredevil parachute jumper in the early '70s, survived the hazards of his calling to die here yesterday of heart disease at the age of 78.
The pioneer balloonist and jumper made his first leap at Kansas City in a parachute he constructed from a diagram he found in a dictionary.
Captain Van Tassel had jumped from balloons in nearly every country in the world, his experiences covering more than half a century. His wife was one of the first women to use a parachute, making her first leap at Los Angeles on July 4, 1882, amid great local excitement and against the opposition of the Chief of Police, but with approval of the Mayor. The Captain made his longest balloon flight in 1883, at Salt Lake City, staying aloft six hours and forty-five minutes and traveling 300 miles.
July 4, 1890, Idaho Springs ascension by "Professor Tenbroek"