August 2, 1819

On THIS DAY IN HISTORY in 1819, Frenchmen Charles Guille jumped out of a hot-air balloon that was floating 10,000 feet over New York and landed safely by use of his parachute, the first time this had happened in United States. Prior to jumping, a New York crowd had gathered and began selling hot-dogs and “jump” pennants and little rag-dolls that resembled a rich-man in a top-hat that had fallen to his death from a great height (of, this is just an estimate mind you, of about 3,000 meters). As Mr. Guille readied himself on the edge of the balloon’s gondola, he could hear the crowd scream “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!” and wrote later of how spirited and good-natured the crowd was as they watched a first time parachutist. Unknown to Mr. Guille, 1819 was also the year of the first American Financial crisis, which had been brought about by rampant land-speculation and unregulated lending by the banks. The American nation almost collapsed due to the bankers and speculators unregulated greed and the New York crowd was used to seeing wealthy financiers leaping to their deaths from tall buildings to avoid filing for bankruptcy and explaining to the banks’ collectors why they were unable to pay back their debts. When Mr. Guille jumped, the crowd roared in approval, at first, but when his parachute opened and he floated gently to the ground, they turned ugly as many of them muttered, “Wot, now that’s cheating, that is. That sumbitch teasing us with a ‘Lucky Lindy’ headfirst into the sod and then not doing by floating to the ground like some Frenchie fairy!” Mr. Guille was very fortunate to have floated across the river, away from the now enraged crowd, so he was able to watch as members of the crowd pulled the balloon down by its guide-ropes, throw a few bankers and financiers into it, lifted off, and then toss the bankers and financiers out to the crowds roaring approval. Mr. Guille’s last words as he walked away were, “Those crazy Americans! Don’t they know that you can’t safely leap from a balloon unless you’re wearing a parachute!”

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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