Leon Sagehomme

Most barnstorming aeronautical performers (including Price and Van Tassel) kept scrapbooks of clippings, photos, and advertisements to prove their worth when arriving in a new town — and at last, I’ve managed to locate one of these elusive items!

A few weeks ago, I obtained a copy of Leon Sagehomme’s ballooning scrap album from the super-helpful and efficient Lilly Library staff at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

For a mere US$27.10 I received copies of: An album of photos and printed material, largely relating the balloonist Leon Sagehomme, mostly c. 1890s, including nine mostly large-format albumen prints of the grounded balloon in deflated and partly inflated state with figures around, three photos in Osaka, Japan, and four photos taken in Shillong, India.

I’m thrilled with the irreplaceable material obtained and I’d love to use some of the photographs on this blog, but copyright and publication costs are not economic and I would have difficulty in choosing just one or two images.

Instead, below is an illustration (similar to The Balloon Gazette leaflets dropped by Leon Sagehomme from his balloon in Calcutta) showing American aeronaut, Professor Bartholomew at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria, 1889.

The Illustrated Australian News, 12 Jan 1889. State Library Victoria

Sagehomme’s album contains clippings from newspapers no longer available such as:

  • The Murrumburrah Signal
  • The Burrangong Chronicle
  • The Orange Leader
  • The Mudgee Independent
  • The Rangoon Times
  • The Japan Daily Mail
  • The Indian Daily News
  • The Shanghai Mercury

This advertisement is from The Australian Star 23 Sep 1893, National Library of Australia.

In an 1894 article, Leon Sagehomme stated he was 36 years old and that his ballooning career began in France (1874) and he made his first parachute descent in Belgium (1888). In another article, he said his father was French and his mother Spanish, but gave his birthplace as Texas. He also claimed to have made appearances at the Crystal and Alexandra Palaces in England and by royal command at Windsor (1879).

I’ve constructed the map below to show Sagehomme’s ballooning itinerary in Australia, New Zealand, and the East from details in the album.

Millie Viola performed balloon ascents under his management in both New Zealand and Australia. Leila Adair also worked with him in Australia. The article below suggests Essie Viola also made an ascent with Sagehomme, but I can’t find any confirmation that this event took place.

Sportsman, 25 Oct 1892, National Library of Australia.

In 1913, Sagehomme wrote this condolence letter to the widow of Samuel F Cody, when Cody was killed in an aircraft accident at Farnborough, England.

Leon Sagehomme’s whereabouts after this are unknown.

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