Monday, September 19, 2016

Another High Bridge Bridge Jumper Reported

As reported here on this blog in 2013, Ronald Donaldson, successfully jumped off the High Bridge as described here in the New York Times.  The 30 year old Scotchman jumped from the center of the 128 foot high bridge into the Harlem River.  Of course, if you are looking in the newspaper for this news, you will, most likely, not find it unless you go back 133 years to when the event actually occurred on August 18, 1880.

According to an entry in Wikipedia,  there were more individuals engaged in this  
Lawrence M. Duignan, better known as Larry Donovan (born New York 1862, died London 1888) was a newspaper typesetter who became famous for leaping into water from a number of high bridges, and may have been the first person to survive a leap from the Brooklyn Bridge. During a two year, ultimately fatal, stint, he sought to gain, and then monetise, fame by leaping from a number of bridges around New York, and later, England. He suffered minor injuries and incarcerations on several occasions.

Donovan's first recorded leap, in 1884, was from a bridge over the Schuylkill River. A year later, he made a 105 foot leap from High Bridge in New York City, an aqueduct supported by many stone arches, on August 24, 1886.

Several days later, he jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, at around 5:30 AM on August 28, 1886, a month after the disputed leap of Steve Brodie and two months after the fatal first attempt by Robert Emmet Odlum. Learning from the difficulties the two previous men had in remaining perfectly vertical during the descent, he wore shoes weighted with five pounds of zinc each.  He also wore trousers padded with "coarse cotton waste", and was attended by two rescue boats. He was immediately arrested, and fined $10 for obstructing traffic.

Although the New York Times dubbed him "Crank No. 3" (after Odlum and Brodie), it pointed out that his leap was higher than Brodie's (143 feet vs 120 feet) and was a jump, rather than falling from the underside of the deck, as in Brodie's case.
Having earnt $200 in a wager for this success, he began to seek other opportunities in the field. He was, however, denied permission to leap from Genesee, on October 20 by the Mayor of Rochester, telling a newspaper that he would join a circus and do a high jumping act. However, he attempted to jump from the bridge anyway, three days later, but was caught by police.

In early November 1886, he set his sights on Niagara Falls, apparently without immediate financial incentive, but with the hope of future returns. He visited Niagara Falls to find a site to jump from, rejecting the "old bridge" before settling on the new Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge . This bridge had only seen one previous jump, a Bellini in 1873, who performed a sort of bungee jump. In the company of a ferryman, a few members of the press, and his trainer, J. Haley, Donovan made the leap at 7 AM, wearing the same outfit he used for the Brooklyn Bridge jump. The height was calculated at 190 feet. After swimming to safety, he was spitting blood, and shaken by the experience, refusing to repeat the leap for less than a million dollars. He was diagnosed with a displaced rib and bruised lung.

After the leap, he swore that he wouldn't "degrade [himself] by going into a dime museum", apparently envisaging more sophisticated ways of earning an income from his pursuit. He planned another attempt on Genesee Falls, in the summer of 1887, and to "swim the Niagara Rapids farther than[William] Kendall did".
This was soon followed by a leap from the Chestnut Street Bridge  (88 feet) in Philadelphia into the Schuylkill River. He achieved this latter feat at 7 AM on February 18, 1887, inviting a "score of reporters and prominent sporting men" to witness the leap, made wearing shoes with lead-lined soles.[8] He was "badly winded, and a little stream of blood gushed from his mouth", but was otherwise uninjured.[8] He was, however, arrested and spent three months at "The Tombs" jail.  He had been intending to attempt to set a record of 500 miles in a "walking match" later in the month, and apparently still had his sights on the Genesee Falls.  Soon after, he declared his his intention to jump from the Niagara Horseshoe Falls on May 8, and to swim the Niagara Falls Rapids. Nothing seems to have come of these plans.

On April 18, 1887, he attempted to repeat his success on Brooklyn Bridge, but was foiled by his mother alerting police.  Calling himself "the champion aerial jumper of the world" and "the champion of champions", he had made a wager of $1,000 to be the first person to jump from the bridge. His mother, having received word, sent an urgent telegraph to police, "Please prevent my son from jumping off the bridge". Shortly afterwards, he was arrested at the bridge, at about 1:30pm, and was subsequently remanded, pending bail of $1,000 by a judge who declared "You are a fool...I am opposed to cranks of your stripe".  On May 9, Donovan was paroled in Yorkville Court by a judge who "extract[ed] a promise not to use any bridge in New-York State for such exhibitions again".[13]

The next year, he travelled to England, he travelled to England with plans to leap from Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge, a height of 250 feet. He was attempting to make a living from the risky occupation, by exhibiting medals he had won and taking bets. After arriving in London on the first of June, 1887, he marked his arrival with a jump from London Bridge a week later.  However, his feats generally "found but little favour, and were only looked upon as a species of foolhardiness."
On June 22, he attempted to leap from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but was arrested, then "discharged...upon furnish sureties that he would make no further effort to jump from the bridge". He apparently ended up spending a month in prison, regardless, and later claimed to have achieved the feat on a separate occasion.
He began working as an emcee and drinking heavily, and by about May 1888, he had professed to be retiring from bridge jumping.

Around 2 AM] on August 8, 1888, he drowned in the River Thames after leaping 100 feet off the Hungerford Bridge in London, apparently in order to win a bet for two pounds after a night of drinking with friends. With little preparation, he simply removed his coat, and had no boat ready to pick him up. He was seen surfacing and swimming a short distance before disappearing under the water. Conflicting reports say it was "high water", "at flood and running under the bridge like a mill race", "near low water" or "very low" at the time. Although prone to drinking, a coroner found he was not drunk at the time. There was speculation that as the bridge was under repair, he might have struck a projecting timber.
According to a "correspondent" in a newspaper, at the time of his death, Donovan had been publicly appealing for money to buy a ticket back to the US, and to reclaim a pawned medal.  He had been "in condition of pitiful poverty for the past few weeks".

1 comment: