Park Van Tassel

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Parker (Park) Albert Van Tassel
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Born(1853-07-25)25 July 1853
Cass County, Indiana
Died24 October 1930(1930-10-24) (aged 77)
Oakland, California
CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationPioneering aerial exhibitionist
Known forPioneer aviator
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Spencer (1872-1876?), Ella Block (1879-1885), Clara A. Coykendall (1885-1890), Edith Ann Nowlan (1892-1894?), A. F. Barr (1912-?)
Childrentwo sons

Park Albert Van Tassel (b.1853-d.1930) was a pioneering aerial exhibitionist in the United States. Van Tassel made the first balloon flight in New Mexico[1][2][3][4] and helped invent and introduce methods of parachute jumping from balloons.[5] His efforts helped introduce ballooning and parachuting internationally and also helped introduce women to these sports.[6]

New Mexico

In May, 1882 Van Tassel expressed interest in making a balloon ascension at Albuquerque, New Mexico.[7] After a full day of inflation with coal gas from the Albuquerque Gas Works, Van Tassel made the first human flight in New Mexico at 6:15pm on July 4, 1882. He launched from an area near Second Street between Railroad (Central) and Gold Avenues. Van Tassel rose slowly in his City of Albuquerque balloon to an apex of 11,000 feet despite it being only 2/3 full of lifting gas. His safe landing near the fairgrounds near Central Avenue and Rio Grande Blvd. was hailed as a complete success.[8][9]

National and International Balloon tours

Van Tassel toured the American west, providing balloon ascensions at locations in Utah[10], the northwest,[11] New Orleans[12], California[13]. In Scientific American he suggested the possibility of a transcontinental balloon voyage across North America in 1886, something unheard of at the time.[14] Together with Thomas Scott Baldwin, Van Tassel co-invented a parachute, used by Baldwin to make the first parachute jump in the western United States on January 30, 1887 at San Francisco.[15] In competition with other daredevils such as Baldwin, Percival G. Spencer, James Price, and others, he later toured the world with his Van Tassel Troupe, associated with balloon ascensions and parachute jumps. His troupe is credited with the first successful parachute jump in Hawaii[16][17], first balloon flights and parachute jumps by women in Australia[18], early balloon flights in India[19], the first flight in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other locations in southeast Asia. Many of these events also helped to pioneer women's efforts in early aviation as a part of the Troupe.[20][21][22]


Van Tassel returned to the United States, living in the San Francisco Bay area and continuing his ballooning in Oakland. He briefly assisted in high-altitude glider flights arranged by John J. Montgomery near Santa Clara and helped establish balloon clubs such as the Pacific Aero Club and the Oakland Aero Club, making several recreational flights in his large City of Oakland balloon.[23] He also patented a mechanical toy parachute in the 1921.[24]

Family life

Van Tassel married Elizabeth Spencer in 1872 at Indiana, divorced and married Ella Block in San Joaquin, California in 1879. In 1885 he divorced Block and married Clara A. Coykendall at San Jose, California. In 1888, Clara became the first woman to make a parachute jump in the western United States. Clara filed for divorce in 1890, and Van Tassel married Edith Ann Nowlan in 1892 in India. After returning to California in 1900 without Nowlan, Van Tassel married again in 1912 to A. F. Barr at Oakland. He passed away October 24, 1930 at Oakland following a heart attack.[25]


  1. Tom Crouch, The Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America, Smithsonian Press, Washington, D.C., 1983
  2. The New York Times, September 14, 1930
  3. "Ballooning".
  5. Anton Westman, Dangers in Sport Parachuting, Umea Universitet, Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, 2009, pg. 14,
  6. Gary Fogel, Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2021
  7. Albuquerque Daily Journal, May 27, 1882
  8. Albuquerque Daily Journal, July 6, 1882
  9. Albuquerque Evening Review, July 6, 1882
  10. The Salt Lake Herald, July 4, 1883
  11. Morning Oregonian, January 2, 1889
  12. Times Picayune, March 20, 1884
  13. Sacramento Daily Record-Union, September 5, 1885
  14. "A Transcontinental Balloon Voyage" in Scientific American 54, 26, 401 (June 1886) doi:10.1038/scientificamerican06261886-401,
  15. Gary Fogel, Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2021
  16. "Ballooning in Hawai'i: A Very Short History – Matthew Wittmann".
  18. Sydney Morning Herald, December 23, 1889
  19. The Times of India, February 26, 1891
  20. "Jeanette Van Tassel : First to Conquer the Sky of Bengal | Writers Lawn". July 26, 2020.
  21. Prior, Susan (May 9, 2017). "The first flight ever taken in Brisbane was by a scantily clad daredevil balloonist". Brisbane Times.
  22. Bill Metcalf, Lady Parachutists and the End of Civilisation in Queensland, Queensland Review Vol. 13, No. 1, 2008,
  23. Gary Fogel, Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2021
  24. "Mechanical toy".
  25. Gary Fogel, Sky Rider: Park Van Tassel and the Rise of Ballooning in the West, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2021

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