Prof. La Cardo: “A Drunken, Howling Fraud”

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130 years ago, in 1888, this advertisement appeared in The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner promising a spectacular out-door exhibition for the Fourth of July at the county fairgrounds.  The main attraction was Prof. La Cardo, an aeronaut, who would perform while hanging from a hot air balloon.  Flight and ballooning had become a popular attraction ever since the first balloon flew in Versailles, France 105 years previously in 1783.  A sheep, duck and rooster were the first passengers and flew for about 8 minutes, rising 1500 feet and traveling 2 miles before safely landing.

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Balloon launch in Public Square (Central Park) around 1870.

Ballooning had come to Mansfield in the past.  In 1858 the aeronaut Mr. W. J. Shotts rose about a quarter mile in the air, dropped and came down about two and a half miles north east of the city in an orchard near the residence of Henry Nail.  Also, in July 1863, a Professor Squires was supposed to make a balloon-ascension from Public Square, but, after sending his balloon to the city, decided not to make the flight to the disappointment of many of the citizens.

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Another balloon launch, unknown date.

This wasn’t the last time the citizens of Mansfield would be disappointed by a ballooning exhibition.  Prof. La Cardo and his “group of dead-beats and dead-broke frauds,” as The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner referred to them, left town after the show owning about $75 to local businesses.   One, The Herald Co., was owed $12.82 and Mayor McCrory issued a warrant for the arrest of W. F. Crossley, the manager of the troupe.  Officer Weil found him at the depot and settled the debt for $10 and let Crossley go.  Another warrant was then issued for both La Cardo and Crossley, but they had already boarded the train heading east.  Messages were sent to Loudonville and Wooster.  Crossley was arrested again in Loudonville and La Cardo by the Marshal in Wooster.  Marshal Lemon then went to retrieve the prisoners to take them back to Mansfield.

The company didn’t just skip town with unpaid bills; the show was also a disappointment.  The Mansfield Daily Shield and Banner called La Cardo “a drunken, howling fraud,” claiming “he was drunk nearly the entire time he was in the city.”  The balloon didn’t rise more the height of a fence and Zip Tyler and John Emminger, who won contests, didn’t receive the prizes they were promised.   In closing the newspaper said La Cardo and his manager Crossley “should have been given nice summer suits of tar and the stuff our grandmothers made pillows of.”

The men were returned to Mansfield and locked up for the night.  The following day, they stood before Mayor McCrory and were charged with “practicing games for the purpose to defraud and cheat.”  Crossley wished to settle the bills.  Another man, named Cook, left his gold watch and the men went out in the city to raise funds.  They returned about a half hour later, paid the bills, and the mayor released the men.

Later it was also found out that “La Cardo and his gang” were wanted in Shelby for defrauding the citizens there.  Crossley said he could perform a balloon-ascension there, but needed a little money to get it going.  He was successful in getting about $50 from the citizens.

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