The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 22nd, 2012

mural history

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering around Calvary Cemetery is often a revelatory experience, and while perambulating through the hallows of Section 9 the other day, the shock of sudden recognition nearly laid me low. While scanning the monolith studded landscape for certain things which cannot be mentioned, the name of one of history’s most famous New Yorkers suddenly appeared before me.

Steve Brodie… The man who jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and lived to talk about it.

Steve Brodie, photo courtesy Wikipedia

also from wikipedia

Steve Brodie (December 25, 1861 – January 31, 1901) was an American from New York City who claimed to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived on July 23, 1886. The resulting publicity from the supposed jump, whose veracity was disputed, gave Brodie publicity, a thriving saloon and a career as an actor.

Brodie’s fame persisted long past his death, with Brodie portrayed in films and with the slang terms “taking a Brodie” and “Brodie” entering the language for “taking a chance” and “suicidal leap.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There weren’t just three major newspapers in 1886, there were hundreds, and the proto “media” ate up Steve Brodie’s story, turning him into a celebrity. From all accounts, Brodie found every advantage offered by fame- opening a swank saloon on the Bowery and starring in a popular play about his exploits.

He would always be known as the “bridge jumper”.


A tall, slim man, who looked very much like an overgrown street boy, stood talking to a young woman at the New-York end of the Brooklyn bridge a little after 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon. He bade her good-bye and kissed her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scourge of the 19th century was “consumption”, or as we call it “tuberculosis”, and Brodie took ill. Like other “lungers”, it was thought that the dry air of the southwest would aid him in fighting the affliction and he packed off for San Antonio in Texas.

That’s where he died.


The body was taken to Calvary Cemetery for burial. A crowd of 500 or 600 men, women, and children, attracted by curiosity remained in the streets during the services at the house, and many of them followed the funeral cortege to Ninety Second Street Ferry on its way to the cemetery.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is a real shame that someone has decided to pry the probable white bronze marker from the monument, which would have occurred in the empty oval space directly above the names and dates which remain. Such is the case though, and there are many instances of such theft not just at Calvary but at all the cemeteries which comprise the cemetery belt of western Queens.

It’s pretty low to steal from the dead, in one humble narrators opinion.

An interesting analysis of whether or not Mr. Brodie actually made his jump was published by “The Day” in 1986. Click here for the article by Larry McShane.

Steve Brodie, photo courtesy Wikipedia

ALSO, this Friday:

My own attempt at presenting a cogent narrative and historical journey “up the creek” is up coming as well-

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M. for the“Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385 as the “Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show” is presented to their esteemed group. The club hosts a public meeting, with guests and neighbors welcome, and say that refreshments will be served.

The “Magic Lantern Show” is actually a slideshow, packed with informative text and graphics, wherein we approach and explore the entire Newtown Creek. Every tributary, bridge, and significant spot are examined and illustrated with photography. This virtual tour will be augmented by personal observation and recollection by yours truly, with a question and answer period following.

For those of you who might have seen it last year, the presentation has been streamlined, augmented with new views, and updated with some of the emerging stories about Newtown Creek which have been exclusively reported on at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

For more information, please contact me here.

What: Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show

When: Friday, February 24th at 7:30 P.M.

Where: Ridgewood Democratic Club, 60-70 Putnam Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385

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