Back in the day, when urban exploring was a sophisticated affair and the city was busy dealing with real problems, the authorities weren’t too concerned with New Yorkers climbing vital infrastructure. Some people even formally volunteered to jump off newly built spans. In a New York Times article dated February 4, 1909, the newspaper wrote about the people who requested permission to leap off of the soon-to-be opened Queensboro Bridge:
According to the veracious press agent employed by the Queensboro Bridge Celebration Committee, up to date 235 persons have sent in applications for permission to jump off the new Queensboro Bridge, between Manhattand and Long Island City, on the day of its opening, which is set for Saturday, June 12. Thirty of these are women ranging in age from 18 to 32 years. Mark > Stone of the Celebration Committee, after careful study of the various applications has analyze and classified them thus:
In case you’re wondering how this committee came up with these classifications, the Times explains:
Mr. Stone ranks as professionals those men and women who make a living by high diving. Some of these offer to dive from the highest tower of the bridge into river for a consideration.
The freak class are those who never jumped before, but have safety devise. These include parachutes, inflated suits, and pneumatic wings. One of the safety devices resembles a hog’s head. It has a frame work of canvas and the wind rushing through it operates revolving fans which beak the force of the fall and permit a graceful and easy descent—in the inventor’s mind.
Then it gets morbid:
The nine would-be-suicides are all young women. Unrequited love, unhappy matrimonial experiences and a struggle for existence are the reasons assigned by the unhappy nine. One woman writes that if she survives the leaps she will take it as a sign that the fates intend she should continue to live and make the best of an unhappy lot.
The twenty-four men who want to work are willing to risk their lives to obtain jobs. They tell of starving and wandering. One says that if he is allowed to make the leap under conditions set forth he will have the satisfaction it he survives of knowing that he will get a good job, and if he doesn’t survive he won’t need work and it can be give to some other unfortunate.
In case you’re wondering who ultimately was given permission to leap over 350 feet into the East River below, we’re happy to report that the number was zero:
“[T]he Celebration Committee announces that no bridge jumping will be allowed.”