Manage episode 237923895 series 1530999
EPISODE 294: A tale of the 'sporting life' of the Bowery from the 1870s and 80s. A former newsboy named Steve Brodie grabs the country's attention by leaping off the Brooklyn Bridge on July 23, 1886. Or did he?
The story of Steve Brodie has all the ingredients of a Horatio Alger story. He worked the streets as a newsboy when he was very young, fighting the bullies (often his own brothers) to become one of the most respected newsies in Manhattan.
He experienced his first taste of adulation and respect as a minor sports celebrity, participating in pedestrian competitions across the country. Back in New York, Brodie started a family and promptly lost most of his money at the race track. He yearned to do something athletic and attention grabbing again.
The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, was a crowning architectural jewel linking two major cities; Brodie witnessed much of its construction during afternoons diving from East River docks. He now proposed an outrageous stunt that would garner him instant fame and fortune.
He would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge!
Was Steve Brodie a hero or a fool? A daredevil or a con artist? His story provides a window into the 'sporting men' life of the Bowery and a look into what may possibly be the greatest hoax of the Gilded Age.
Our thanks to Grant Barrett of A Way With Words
Featuring clips from the 1933 film The Bowery, the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon Bowery Bugs and the 1958 recording of "The Bowery" by Billy Randolph & The High Hatters