Steve Brodie Jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and Lived (Maybe?)


[Rendering of Steve Brodie (1863-1901) who jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge, and survived, on July 23, 1886. Image includes a portion of the East River and four small boats.] 1886. Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History

This is a rendering of Steve Brodie a resident of Manhattan and former newsboy who claimed to have jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and lived. The bridge, then called the East River Bridge had just recently been completed in 1883 and on July 23, 1886, Brodie took the plunge.

Or did he?

The newspaper accounts detailed everything they could about the jump, especially Brodie's motive, which was simple. He was looking to make some money. He arranged with some friends who were to row out to the bridge and pick him up after the leap. Then he hitched a ride on a wagon and took the 135 feet plunge into the waters of the East River. No one, other than his friends, claimed to have seen him jump but they reported that he landed feet first with only minor bruises. His friends pulled him into the boat, rowed him back to shore, and proceeded to have a celebration during which Brodie was arrested. 

Once out of jail he told his story to anyone who would listen and turned himself into a local celebrity. Such a celebrity that "doing a Brodie" meant doing something outrageous. But it could also mean throwing a dummy off the bridge and lying about it as later claims against him stated. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported in 1930 that  Thomas K. Hastings, a retired police officer and friend of Brodie's claimed that Brodie told him he never made the jump.

Regardless of it being fact or fiction, Brodie opened a tavern at 114 Bowery at Grand Street. It celebrated Brodie's stunt with an oil painting and a signed affidavit from the people who pulled him from the waters, which, mind you, were his friends. 

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This blog post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Brooklyn Public Library.


Dave Sagarin

Born in Brooklyn eighty-some years ago, I recall an anecdote from a long time ago. A fellow was at a party, and was introduced to Steve Brodie. "Steve Brodie?" he exclaimed. "Why, you're the guy who jumped over the Brooklyn Bridge!" Brodie chuckled and said, "No, I jumped off the bridge." "Oh," said the man. "I thought you jumped over it. Any damn fool could jump off it."
Sat, Jun 11 2022 3:58 pm Permalink

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