Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who made the trapeze fly?

September 9, 2013

Recycled Tire Coasters | UncommonGoodsYou may have heard the old song about “the daring young man on the flying trapeze,” but not every trapeze is intended to fly. There’s the static trapeze, where the acrobat does tricks on a swing, but tries to do so with as little rocking movement as possible. There’s the swinging trapeze, where (as the name suggests) the acrobat get the suspended bar to move back and forth, and uses the momentum to do aerial tricks. What makes the flying trapeze different is that the performers don’t begin on the swing itself, but leap out to grab it from an elevated platform. This daredevil display was first performed in France in 1859, and was an immediate sensation. Its inventor was Jules Leotard, and the skintight costume he developed to maximize his flexibility while performing is still worn and bears his name today—the leotard. In fact, Leotard was such a popular phenomenon that that aforementioned song, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” was written specifically about him in 1867, and (thanks in large part to its appearance in some popular cartoons) is still familiar 150 years later.

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