The Fatal Leap of Charles Richmond

Gathering at community parks to watch balloon ascensions was once a favorite national pastime. At Cochran Park on Morris Island in the Delaware River, as they had days before, a crowd gathered on June 5, 1893, to watch aeronaut Charles Richmond (abt.1860–1893) make a parachute jump from a hot air balloon. The leap proved fatal, however, as his parachute failed to open and he plunged several thousand feet into Sturgeon Pond and drowned.

Advertisement appearing in the
Trenton Sunday Advertiser,
May 28, 1893

The tragic accident was carried in newspapers across the nation, among them the Bridgeton Evening News (N.J.) of June 6, 1893, which gave its readers a concise account with an article titled “His Last Ascension: An Aeronaut Falls Three Thousand Feet to Death”:
TRENTON, June 6.—Charles Richmond, an aeronaut, made a 3,000 foot ascension here yesterday, and lost his life. The affair took place at Cochran park, a picnic ground on the Delaware near Trenton. Richmond was an employe of the Jewell Brothers, and was billed as “Professor Jewell.” He made an ascension at the same park on Decoration Day and another last Saturday. On the latter occasion he went up into the air 5,000 feet and came down safely in the streets of Trenton. The parachute failed to work properly, and the spectators were horrified to see Richmond descend with lightning rapidity, making revolutions in the air as he came down. Several women fainted, and every body in the great throng was thrilled or sickened by the spectacle. He landed in a muddy little stream called Sturgeon pond, and if he was alive when he touched its surface he was drowned. Professor Harry Jewell is of the opinion that this was the case. He states that Richmond could not swim. The latter hails from Springfield, Ills., and was 33 years of age and unmarried. He has made about 500 ascensions altogether, and never before experienced any mishap.

Richmond’s body was not returned to his hometown for burial, but rather laid to rest in Riverview Cemetery in “Strangers Rest” where his grave is marked by a modest marble marker that tells the story of his fatal leap.

Gravemarker for Charles Richmond

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