Inventor of a Wearable Parachute Takes a Flying Leap Off of the Eiffel Tower in 1912, and It Doesn’t End Well

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Hou­di­ni Escape From a Strait Jack­et, Then See How He Did It (Cir­ca 1917)

Beau­ti­ful, Col­or Pho­tographs of Paris Tak­en 100 Years Ago—at the Begin­ning of World War I & the End of La Belle Époque

Build­ing The Eif­fel Tow­er: Three Google Exhi­bi­tions Revis­it the Birth of the Great Parisian Mon­u­ment

Thomas Edison’s Silent Film of the “Fartiste” Who Delight­ed Crowds at Le Moulin Rouge (1900)

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Comments (4)
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  • Jim Davies says:

    Hmm… Isn’t this essen­tial­ly a snuff film?
    Does it mat­ter that Beethoven’s Moon­light Sonata is play­ing in the back­ground? Does it mat­ter that it looks a bit like a Chap­lin film? Seems a bit weird to be post­ing aes­theti­cized videos of peo­ple jump­ing to their death. Do you think that today’s media cul­ture, which loves active death, might be influ­enc­ing us to appre­ci­ate such films as enter­tain­ment, or might push us to think that those who can’t enjoy such imagery are “squea­mish”?

  • Krith Crossley says:

    Jim — I don’t think do. It illus­trates (yes, vivid­ly) the haz­ardous jour­ney of explo­ration. The ben­e­fits of which we unthink­ing­ly enjoy.

  • Robert Monroe, Jr. says:

    Seemed like a good idea at the time.

  • Pog says:

    A snuff film is some­thing else entire­ly.

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