Van Tassel Rides Again

A recent publication Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West by Gary B. Fogel sheds new light on the intrepid aeronaut who “took ballooning from Albuquerque to the rest of the world.”

From the foreword: “Author and aviation historian Dr Gary Fogel traces Van Tassel’s life journey and show us how this charismatic barnstormer and his high-flying acrobatic troupe performed throughout the American West and beyond, added parachuting to his ballooning exploits, and, in a most spectacular way, introduced women to aviation.”

Several chapters focus on the women aeronauts associated with Van Tassel: Clara Coykendall, Gladys and Valerie Freitas, Millie Viola, Leila Adair, and Jeanette Rumary all feature in this biography, but the true origins of the Van Tassel sisters remain elusive. I’m not going to reveal their actual identities here either – you will need to read The Only Living Lady Parachutist to find the answer to that question!

The book is well-referenced and illustrated and I was particularly taken with this studio portrait of Gladys Freitas that Dr Fogel uncovered in the State Library Victoria, labelled Gladys Mantasso.

Gladys Mantasso, Bradley & Rulofson, photographer [ca. 1855-1900]
State Library Victoria

It’s clearly the same woman as the photos in my blogpost on the Van Tassel sisters and these later photos of Gladys in India:

Gary Fogel currently has a gofundme campaign established to secure funding for a marker on Park Van Tassel’s grave, followed by a marker at the location of his first flight in Albuquerque. It’s great to have more people interested in remembering these aeronauts.

A presentation from Gary Fogel about Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the rise of ballooning in the West

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