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Grand Rapids in 1856

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The Human Fly

The Human Fly

GRHC - September 7th, 2011

In 1916, Harry H. Gardner "The Human Fly" caused a stir in Grand Rapids with his death-defying feats.



The customary bustle of Monroe Avenue was interrupted in September of 1916 by the appearance of Harry H. Gardiner. The Herpolsheimer Company and the Grand Rapids Savings Bank arranged for Gardiner to Scale the outside of their buildings, a dangerous task for which he had recently become nationally famous.

Around 1905 Gardiner had been named “the human fly” by President Grover Cleveland, who had seen him climb the 159-foot flagpole at Grant’s Tomb in New York.

Gardiner had scaled tall buildings all over the United States and Europe, and after his appearance here he moved on to Flint and Detroit, pausing to climb to the top of the State Capitol Building in Lansing on September 23rd.

Gardiner’s first effort, at noon on Monday, September 18th, was to climb the front of the giant, ten-story Herpolsheimer department store at the corner of Monroe and Ottawa as a crowd of several thousand watched. This performance was repeated Friday evening, when Gardiner climbed to the top of the newly completed twelve-story Grand Rapids Savings Bank, located at the corner of Monroe and Ionia.

Clad entirely in white and lit by a huge searchlight, he worked without ropes or nets. Gardiner ascended the twelve-story building in just over thirty minutes, pausing only at the ninth floor window to open a savings account with the bank’s cashier. He then proceeded to the top and scaled the flagpole on the roof, all before an estimated crowd of 40,000 breathless fans.

Full Details

TitleThe Human Fly
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, Harry Gardner, Human Fly, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringSeptember 7th, 2011

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