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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