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Tony Castellane, Aviator, Dies at Mansfield Fair - 1911
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Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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Poor Tony Castellaine
Came to Town on an Aeroplane
His luck turned bad
How very sad
He left in a box on the evening train.
[Doggerel by JMT sorry to say]
Article: Aviator, Tony Castellane, Dies at Mansfield Fair
Township: Richmond, Tioga County PA-
Mansfield Borough
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Tony Castellane, early aviator, killed in Crash at Mansfield Fair.

Poor Tony Castellane
Came to Town on an Aeroplane
His luck turned bad
How very sad
He left in a box on the evening train.

In the early days of aviation, “daredevil” aviators wowed the crowds at fairs and other celebrations. In September 1911 twenty-eight year old aviator, Tony Castellane of Brooklyn was on the circuit for such an event at Mansfield’s thirty-third fair. It was his last performance, and he died in the attempt.

In 1904 this same Tony Castellane had appeared at the centennial celebration in Wellsboro as “Diavolo.”  His act then was a bicycle loop-the-loop, considered quite an amazing feat. In a 1911 photo of Tony in his Curtiss bi-plane, it looks to me like a modified tricycle with wings.  It is easy to see why one would be called a daredevil to leave the ground in such a contraption. The editorial comment on an article of the time called it a frail craft and noted that 400 young aviators had recently died in “attempting to solve the problems of navigation of the air.”

Tony Castellane was originally from France and had graduated from college with honors. He had taken up aviation only ten months before his appearance at Mansfield’s fair. He came to Mansfield with his wife and brother and business manager. On the first two days of the fair there was too much wind to attempt the flight. Even on the morning of the final day, facing a failure to fulfill his contract, Tony considered the wind conditions too dangerous.

The impatient crowd called him a fake and worse, and finally on the afternoon of the final day of the fair, the winds seemed to abate. With great reservation, Tony took the opportunity to make good on his obligation and took off from the hill by Morris Farms. Edward Hirsch, Tony’s business manager, saw him go up and went to the Smythe Park ticket office to collect the money. The cash never touched his hand before news of the crash reached the office.

The wind had caught Tony’s frail craft, and his attempts to control it failed. One wing caught on a tree and caused a crash not far from the take off point. Tony’s death was almost immediate.

Local photographers, Bates and Vedder, each captured the scenes before and after on postcards that preserved the memory of this event to this day. Many were sold immediately and the proceeds donated to the young widow. She was never named in any article except as wife and widow. She was so distraught she attempted suicide but was prevented form succeeding. The impatient crowd immediately became a sympathetic crowd and gave generously to a donation box for the grieving widow.

Tony was a Mason and a Shriner. He also belonged to a theatrical group called the White Rats. The local Masonic group in Mansfield took responsibility for the body and saw it to the train for return to Brooklyn.

Articles about the Mansfield Fair and the death of Tony Castellane appeared in adjacent Wellsboro Gazette newspaper columns. The Smythe Park Fair managers were well satisfied with the thirty-third fair, calling it the best ever “all things considered.”


Submitted by Chester P. Bailey

Mansfield Advertiser – Wednesday, September 22, 1911

On Friday afternoon last at 1:30, Tony Castellane, who came to Mansfield to make aeroplane flights as an extra special attraction of the Mansfield Fair, was killed. Having failed to make flights Wednesday and Thursday from a field in the vicinity of Smythe Park, by reason of the cross currents of air which invest this valley, the aviator on Friday afternoon made a start from an elevation on the Thompson farm west of the Tioga River. His machine was in good condition, and all things presaged a successful exhibition.

Castellane made a successful start, and went about 150 feet high, circled and proceeded in the direction of Smythe Park. When almost over the home of Eugene Doane, on the Hollow Road, half a mile west of town, the young aviator encountered a treacherous cross current. His aeroplane turned turtle. Falling to the ground the machine struck a tree, tearing off some of the large limbs. The fatal landing was in the road in front of Mr. Doane’s home. Ward Bailey and Fred Roundsville, who had been watching the flight from near where the accident happened, were the first to reach the prostrate aviator. Mr. Doane, who was in the rear of his home, heard the crash, and soon joined them. They placed Casterllane in a more comfortable position. He gasped twice and all was over. Dr. F. G. Wood soon arrived, and declared the unfortunate man dead.

A Young Percy Coles, hands in pockets, founder of Coles Pharmacy, is among the onlookers at the Fatal Flight of Tony Castellaine, aviator.

A crowd soon gathered, and the dead aviator’s manager and other friends who came with him to Mansfield, were accorded every possible aid in caring for the wrecked aeroplane, which was of the Curtis type, and was built by Castellane. Dr. Wood conveyed the body in his motor car to the undertaking establishment of Rolason and Shaw, where it was prepared for burial. 

On Saturday afternoon, the local lodge of the Masons escorted the casket containing the dead aviator to the Erie Station for shipment to Brooklyn, N.Y.; a goodly number of citizens also accompanied the body to the station.

The Great Mansfield Fair.
(Wednesday, September 27, 1911, Wellsboro Gazette, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)

Better show than ever and crowds the largest.  The 33rd annual Mansfield Fair this year was equal in all points and superior in some respects to any former exhibition in Smythe Park.  That butternut grove is an asset to the Association worth more than any similar number of trees growing on an area of the same size anywhere that we know of.  Under their shade is found the social feature which is distinctive of the Mansfield Fair.  Bradford, Chemung, Steuben and Potter county people go there to meet their relatives and friends every fall.  That makes the Fair amount to an old home week with a great many patrons.  Thousands go there for the social features alone and never see the exhibits.  Asked how they like the show they reply, “I don’t know; I didn’t see any of the exhibits; I was too busy greeting my friends.”  This year with so many candidates for offices looking for votes, the fair was a harvest time for the politicians.  They were all there, and you couldn’t look in any direction that you didn’t see a candidate button-holling some voter.  That was legitimate campaigning, too.  A candidate could do more electioneering at Mansfield in one day than he can in the ordinary way in a week. The secretary’s office was simply overwhelmed with entries in all departments.  In the woman’s building and the quarters for products of the farm the space was full and running over.  Many exhibits could not be properly displayed.  The stock and poultry departments gave striking proof that the breeders of Tioga county are wide awake and progressive.  There were as fine specimens of horses and cattle in the stock parade on Friday morning as may be seen anywhere--and many of them were registered thoroughbreds. Wednesday and Thursday, there was some disappointment because the aeroplane did not make a flight.  The truth is that the weather was not suitable.  Castellane, the aviator had trouble with his engine and the wind was such that he considered it unsafe.  On Friday, however, in order to secure his contract and not disappoint the people entirely on the last day in the afternoon, he took the chance made the attempt and fell to death.  The particulars of the accident are told under another head in the issue. The “midway” was replete with sideshows and the hucksters and special privilege men drove a thriving business.  The machinery agents, tradesmen and others had exhibits everywhere to educate all comers on the merits of their wares to make sales. There was music every day by the Mansfield, Wellsboro, and Blossburg bands, respectively, all crack musicians.  The free attractions entertained vast audiences every day and they were very good. Thursday was the big day of the Fair as usual.  There was a shower late in the afternoon, but it did no affect the gate receipts.  The best information that we could get from the managers was that the crowd on Thursday was about 18,000.  From the records of single admission tickets sold.  We are ready to believe that the attendance is not over stated.  There were more than 150 automobiles parked at one time and the field where teams were hitched was a night; all excursion trains were long and crowded. The managers of the Mansfield Fair have reason to be well satisfied with the whole show, it was the best Fair in Smythe Park, all things considered for 33 years.

Tony Castellane
(Wednesday, September 27, 1911, Wellsboro Gazette, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)

Aviator killed at Mansfield.  It was indeed a sad accident at the Mansfield Fair last Friday afternoon when the aviator, Tony Castellane, made his third attempt at flight and fell to earth and was instantly killed by being crushed under the wreck of his biplane. Castellane was accompanied to Mansfield by his young wife and brother.  When he failed to make flights on Wednesday and Thursday the disappointed crowds called it a fake and criticized him severely.  Few people realize the dangers, which lurk in the breast of an aeroplane and its frail wings.  Castellane himself felt humiliated that his engine was troubling him and regretted that he could not fulfill his contract for this reason and because the weather was not favorable for flight.  On Friday morning he said there was too much wind, but in the afternoon about one o’clock he resolved to make an attempt in order that he might earn his money, for evidently he needed it.  He had misgivings, however, about his success.  Or, was it a premonition of disaster? His machine started off finely, Castellane rose to a height of about 300 feet, when he encountered changed air currents.  He circled around the top of the hill and when he turned to fly over towards the fair grounds a gust of wind lifted his craft.  It wobbled and he dipped to fly across the valley towards a landing.  He was unable to control the craft and one of the wings struck a tree and the machine turned completely over and struck the ground a total wreck in the ditch along the “hollow” road, half a mile out of Mansfield toward Wellsboro. Men ran as quickly as possible to the spot, Castellane was pulled from under the wreck unconscious and bleeding though he was still breathing.  He died in a few minutes. Tony Castellane was aged 28 years and his home was in Brooklyn, NY.  He was a native of France and was a college man who won high honors in his school days.  For several years after coming to this country he was engaged as a trick bicycle rider and he was the first man to devise and execute successfully the thrilling, loop-the-loop on a bicycle.  Ten months ago he took up aviation.  He had made many successful flights and had never before had a serious accident.  His brother, Augustus, and his wife were watching him from the starting field when he fell. The temper of the crowd on Friday changed immediately after the accident from impatience and criticism to deep sorrow and sympathy for brother and widow.  Postcards, sold on the grounds for the benefit of the suddenly-made young widow, were bought freely at all sorts of prices and a contribution-box at the gates for her received a generous sum of money. Hundreds of people went out over the river bridge, to see the wreck of the Curtis biplane, which lay a mass of splintered wood, torn wings and twisted wires by the roadside.  The wonder was that any man in the full possession of his senses would trust himself to be lifted aloft and risk his life, in such a frail craft. Thus young Castellane becomes another victim of the perils of aviation.  Something like 400 brave men, have recently lost their lives in attempting to solve the problems of navigation of the air.

Widow Wild With Grief
 (Wednesday, September 27, 1911, Wellsboro Gazette, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)

The Aviator’s widow at Mansfield failed to commit suicide.  The body of Tony Castellane, the aviator, who fell to his death at Mansfield last Friday afternoon, was taken to Brooklyn Saturday for interment.  The remains were accompanied to the train by a delegation of Masons.  Mr. Castellane being a Mason and a Shriner.  He was also a member of the White Rats, a theatrical organization. Mrs. Castellane tried to commit suicide when overcome with grief because of her husband’s death.  Her attempt was thwarted. The full details of the accident by which the aviator lost his life in attempting to make a flight at Mansfield are printed on an inside page of this paper. Edward Hirsch, of New York city, the business manager for Castellane, stated that the failure of Castellane to perform successfully at Mansfield was wholly due to the treacherous air currents every day in the Tioga valley.  His fatal flight encountered these currents at the brow of the hill and he turned, evidently intending to drop lower and escape them if possible. “The accident was due to no fault on the part of Mr. Castellane,” said Mr. Hirsch.  He handled his machine skillfully and made a brave fight for his life even after he realized that the fall was unavoidable.  It was simply a case of squally air, which tipped the machine much as a sudden gale on the water often swamps a light sailing skin.” “Castellane had just left the ground for a short flight and after watching him a moment I started for the ticket office to make a settlement, expecting that I would finish up my business and join ‘Tony,’ when he landed a few moments later.  Hardly had I stepped into the office, when I received word that Castellane had fallen.  I was rushed to the scene of the accident, where one glance at the wrecked machine and poor ‘Tony’ was enough to confirm my worst fears.” Aviator Castellane was filling numerous engagements in various parts of the country.  He had flown at Belmont and many other occasions, his work in the air always having attracted admiration and praise from aerial-navigators and the public.

Tony Castellane
Tony Castellane, the aviator who was killed at Mansfield on Thursday, was the same man called “Diavolo,” who performed the “loop-the-loop” bicycle act in Wellsboro during the centennial celebration in 1904.

Bird Man Drops To Death At Fair
  (Wednesday, September 28, 1911, Wellsboro Gazette, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)

Aviator Castellane killed at Mansfield--his machine lurched and turned turtle.  The amusements and pleasures of the great Mansfield Fair were sadly marred during the closing hours Friday afternoon by a thrilling tragedy which was enacted just before one o’clock when Tony Castellane, the exhibiting aviator, advertised as the “Dare Devil Castellane,” was almost instantly killed in making his first flight during the fair.  The sad accident cast a deep gloom over the large crowd of merrymakers on the grounds, although but a small number of people were eyewitnesses of the flight which resulted in Castellane falling to his death. Castellane, who was goaded to desperation by the taunts of the crowds on the grounds, which had been disappointed by the postponement of his exhibition the two previous days, was determined to make a flight on this the last day, regardless of the air conditions or the protestations of his friends as well as that of Secretary Ray C. Longbothum, of the fair association.  It is said that he remarked, “I will make that flight if it is the last thing that I will ever do.” The machine started in well and the aviator had reached a height of about 150 feet when it appeared that he attempted to make a sharp turn to the left in order to clear the trees on the projecting hillside and circle over the fair grounds that the people might see him.  He did not at any time get within sight of the fair grounds but the spectators who witnessed the flight state that his machine appeared to wobble and then his engine stopped, when they were horrified to see the machine give a lurch and tip sidewise and dive for the earth.  In falling to the ground the machine struck a tree with such force that it broke two large limbs. As if it had come from a single throat, a groan of horror arose from the group of spectators.  Ladies turned their heads that they might not witness the fearful spectacle, one of the number fainting, while strong men shuddered and grew white. Castellane stuck to his machine and was seen grasping the wheel as the machine dropped.  He did not leap or fall from his machine, but was killed by the mass of falling wreckage.  Blood spurted from his ears and nose as he struck and his abdomen was cut open by the wires on his plane, his remains presenting a horrible sight.  He was alive when the crowd reached his side but he died a few minutes later.  His wife and daughter and his brother, who had witnessed the fatal plunge from a short distance, reached him before he expired.  Mrs. Castellane swooned and the scene presented by the stricken relatives was most pitiful.   Castellane was about 28 years of age and lived in Brooklyn, NY.  He had a Curtiss machine of an old type, but he was not a Curtiss aviator.  He had been in the flying game only a short time and had but little experience.  He was formerly a trick bicycle rider. A bulletin was posted on the fair grounds after the accident.  Between the gates a milk pail was placed and contributions for the widow of the aviator were dropped into this by those who attended the fair.  A good sum of money was realized. The body was placed in charge of an undertaker and prepared for shipment to the home of the deceased in Brooklyn.  On Saturday afternoon the remains were escorted to the train by members of the Masonic order and a delegation of citizens.  Floral offerings covered the casket. Edward Hirsch, of New York city, manager of Castellane, attributed the aviator’s fall to treacherous air currents, which swept suddenly over the bow of the hill about which the birdman was flying. “The accident was due to no fault on the part of Mr. Castellane,” said Mr. Hirsch.  “He handled his machine skillfully and made a brave fight for his life even after he realized that the fall was unavoidable.  It was simply a case of squally air, which tipped the machine much as a sudden gale on the warter often swamps a light sailing skiff.” Mr. Hirsch stated that Castellane was one of the most promising of the present day aviators.  He knew no fear, but was always careful and cautious. Late Wednesday afternoon the unfortunate aviator tried to make ascents from the low ground near the fair grounds, but without success, his machine running along the ground but refusing to rise.  He laid his trouble to the gasoline of which he could not get the proper kind of a supply in town.  Thursday his machine was taken to the Morris farm on higher ground, removed from the sight of the fair ground.  Here Castellane worked all day with mechanics trying to get the plane to make an ascent, which finally had to be abandoned.  Castellane is said to have been afraid of the air current from a gulley on the hill. Castellane’s wife worried greatly lest the people should think her husband a “fakir,” and Castellane determined to make a flight Friday, if it were a possible thing to get his machine into the air.

Manager Nails False Reports.
(Thursday, September 28, 1928, Wellsboro Gazette, Wellsboro, Tioga Co, Pa.)

Mansfield, Sept. 23.--Reports having been circulated that Tony Castellane, the aviator, who met his death on Friday, September 22, while making an aeroplane flight in connection with the Mansfield Fair, would not have attempted a flight, nor been killed, had not the officers of Smythe Park Association taunted him, and accused him of being a fakir.  I hereby deny in total all statements to that effect.  They are false, misleading and malicious. The flight was made solely upon the responsibility of the aviator and his management, and not because of the demands of any of the officers of Smythe Park Association, who gave us the best and most liberal treatment we ever have received.  Charles A. Cook, 530 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY, Manager Castellane.

Tony Castellane
Tony Castellane, the aviator who was killed at Mansfield on Thursday, was the same man called “Diavolo,” who performed the “loop-the-loop” bicycle act in Wellsboro during the centennial celebration in 1904.

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Chemung County NY
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