William Assman was a balloon racer from St. Louis who attempted several times to win the John Gordon Bennett Trophy, a flying endurance competition to spur development of gas balloon technology, which was founded in 1906 by the sporty owner of the New York Herald.
Miss Sofia was one of Assman’s earlier balloons, probably from 1910-11. In the 1910 International Balloon Race, Assman rode as aide on the German balloon Harburg II and sustained multiple injuries when it crashed into a Canadian lake. [That’s how the race was run; the balloons would just go as far as they could, then land, and report their position. Farthest/last one flying won.]
But not in 1912, when the NY Times reported his balloon, the St Louis IV, was eliminated from the qualifying round with technical problems. By 1913, he was flying the Miss Sophia II [sic], which had a valve torn out by strong wind. Said the Times: “When he found he could not start, he took his pocketknife and cut his $1,800 balloon to pieces.”
You’d think that even though he never won the Bennett Trophy, a daring balloonist named Assman would be more famous than he currently appears to be. [via andy]