The Human Fly
Monday July 25, 2005
By Dwana Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Daring feats are almost common place these days with television shows like Fear Factor urging average people to perform dare-devil acts and extreme sports enthusiasts base jumping off cliffs with parachutes, and rock climbing without ropes.
In 1918, such foolhardy activities were not as familiar, so when Jack Williams, alias, "The Human Fly," appeared in Medford, Oregon, to climb the five-story Hotel Medford, he drew a large crowd. For Williams, this was a piece of cake. He had been scaling buildings all over the country for eight years.
In 1911, the year Medford's premier hotel was built, Williams had climbed the fifty-five-story Woolworth building in New York City using only his hands and feet. For his Medford appearance, he had to use a rope to get over the cornice, but once on the roof, he proceeded to climb the flagpole.
The promotional stunt was sponsored by a local newspaper to raise money for the Red Cross. Eight dollars and fifty cents was collected before the ascent.
Scaling buildings for publicity is still with us. Protestors do it to gain attention and recently, a cable-assisted Jeep Cherokee "climbed" a New York skyscraper as part of an ad campaign.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org