In 1912, a Parisian tailor named Franz Reichelt took a flying leap off of the Eiffel Tower. And it didn’t end well. Squeamish readers, you’ve been warned.
Known today as the “Flying Tailor,” Reichelt made a little mark on history by designing a wearable parachute for aviators–something aviators could use during those dangerous early days of flying. Initially, Reichelt tested his wearable parachute by strapping dummies into them, and dropping them from the fifth floor of his apartment building. Later, he looked for something that could approximate a real flight. And naturally he chose the Eiffel Tower, the tallest building in town. When city officials agreed to let him use the monument, they assumed that Reichelt planned to use a dummy again. Never did they imagine that he’d wear the parachute himself. The newsreel footage above captures the fatal jump–the nervous hesitation at the beginning, the short flight, the unfortunate hole left in the ground.
It’s all a bit macabre, to be sure. And yet Reichelt was onto something. Across the ocean, a successful parachute jump from a plane took place in the United States, leading to a patent for a packable parachute.