Anything to Get the Shot: Aerial Acrobatics

I’ve heard of going to great lengths, but daredevil “Jersey” Ringel goes to new heights in this photograph. Perched perilously on the top wing of a plane, Ringel appears to be shooting moving film footage, perhaps of another aerial acrobat executing a stunt.

"Jersey" Ringel standing on top of wing of aeroplane [in flight] with camera. Photo copyrighted July 7, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18311

“Jersey” Ringel standing on top of wing of aeroplane [in flight] with camera. Photo copyrighted July 7, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18311

Most photographs of Newark native Ringel show him in these kinds of poses, no camera in sight:

<i>"Jersey" Ringel standing on top wing of aeroplane.</i> Photo copyrighted July 7, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a35031

“Jersey” Ringel standing on top wing of aeroplane. Photo copyrighted July 7, 1921. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a35031

The first photo of Ringel is a good reminder that someone had to film aerial acrobatics and stunt flying. Keep in mind what it took to get the shot in the death-defying stunts below:

The aptly named stuntman “Fearless Freddie” is shown performing the first successful transfer from flying plane to moving car, according to caption information with the photo. (The reverse – car to plane – was the more common trick.)  All of this is happening at the speed of 78 m.p.h., and presumably the photographer is in a car speeding along in the lead!

"Fearless Freddie", a Hollywood stunt man, clinging to a rope ladder slung from a plane flown by A.M. Maltrup, about to drop into automobile below: automobile shown. Photo by Underwood & Underwood, Nov. 21, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18313

“Fearless Freddie”, a Hollywood stunt man, clinging to a rope ladder slung from a plane flown by A.M. Maltrup, about to drop into automobile below. Photo by Underwood & Underwood, Nov. 21, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18313

Miss Lillian Boyer quit her job as a waitress to take up more daring tasks like wing walking and hanging from airplanes hundreds of feet in the air. Here she is in the middle of a trick she referred to as “the breakaway,” which ended with Boyer hanging by her teeth from a mouthpiece at the end of a thin cable. To the crowds below, she appeared to be falling for a few breathless moments before the cable went taut.

Miss Lillian Boyer, aerial acrobat. Photo copyrighted Jan. 21, 1922. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18662

Miss Lillian Boyer, aerial acrobat. Photo copyrighted Jan. 21, 1922. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b18662

The Hunter brothers are giving the photographers a show according to the caption (below right), as Kenneth Hunter gets his head awfully close to the propeller while brother John pilots the plane.

These literal flights of daring were at the height of their popularity in the 1920s, but began to fade by the end of the decade as aviation become more regulated.

Hunter cuts capers for photographers. Photo by Underwood & Underwood, 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a35556

Hunter cuts capers for photographers. Photo by Underwood & Underwood, 1930. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a35556

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One Comment

  1. Sharon M.
    May 13, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Somehow I just can’t envision these daredevils on the wings of a Boeing 737! Fun post, thanks.

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