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  • 5 pieces of daredevil memorabilia
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • 5daredevilofpieces

5 pieces of daredevil memorabilia

Today marks the 113th anniversary of Annie Edson Taylor's trip over the Niagara Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901.

Miraculously she survived, telling the assembled press afterwards: "If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat...

"I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall."

These five pieces of memorabilia help tell the story of the daredevil in popular culture.

5. Helen Gibson autograph

While she's never been a household name, Helen Gibson is undoubtedly the greatest daredevil on this list.

Born in rural Ohio she started out as rodeo rider before moving into the film business, working on various productions during the pioneering early years of Hollywood.

Helen Gibson
Gibson was one of the first female stunt actors

She starred in her own series, The Hazards of Helen (1914-1917). A typical episode features her performing various death defying stunts - in one memorable scene she jumps from a moving train to a rope ladder attached to a low-flying biplane.

Incredibly she made it through her entire career unscathed, despite the relative lack of safety measures at the time, and lived to the age of 85. 

This signed photograph from 1920 sold for $30 at Berner's Antique Auction Gallery in 2007.

4. Karl Wallenda signed photograph

Karl Wallenda was famed for his high wire antics during the 1920s and 1930s. He founded the Flying Wallenda Brothers, perhaps the most famous high wire act of the era.

Wallenda Flying signed
The Flying Wallenda Brothers performed around the world

They worked with some of the biggest circus companies of the time, including Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey.

Tragically, Wallenda was killed after falling 125 feet from a wire strung between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the age of 73.

The photograph is inscribed: "Mit besten w??nschen, f??r unseren Freund, zur Erinnerung, Karl Wallenda" (With best wishes, for our friend, a memento, Karl Wallenda).

It sold for $800 at Early American History Auctions earlier this year.  

3. Evel Knievil's crash helmet

There are very few people throughout history who can match Evel Knievel in terms of sheer guts and shameless self-promotion.

Knieval helmet
Knieval holds the record for the most broken bones

He famously broke the world record for broken bones, managing to shatter 43 over the course of his career.

He wore this helmet during his infamous attempt to jump 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in 1975. Unfortunately he lost control of his bike and broke his pelvis.

Through a haze of pain he made the announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen of this wonderful country, I've got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump. Because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I'm through."

Six months later he was back in the saddle.

The helmet made $60,000 at Profiles in History in 2012.

2. Bud Ekins and Steve McQueen Triumph

Bud Ekins was one of the best-known stuntmen of his generation.

He met Steve McQueen on the set of The Great Escape where he performed the famous jump during the getaway scene - something that irked McQueen, who had wanted to perform it.

McQueen Ekins Triumph
The bike also has a paint job from legendary designer Von Dutch

They became close friends, working together on various projects. Both were huge motorbike nuts, with Ekins maintaining McQueen's collection for him.

This example was owned by McQueen and modified by Ekins for desert riding. It made ?�52,146 ($84,240) at Bonhams London in 2009.

1. Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell

Harry Houdini remains the benchmark for all aspiring daredevils. His stunts afforded him an extraordinary level of fame in a pre-TV/internet world.

Houdini water
Houdini's cell was restored after it was damaged in a fire in 1995

Thousands would turn out to watch him escape from locked milk cans filled with water, or free himself from a sack while dangling from a crane.  

Most famous of all was the Chinese Water Torture Cell. He would be lowered into the monstrous looking contraption head first and sealed in. A curtain would fall and the orchestra would strike up Asleep in the Deep.

Minutes later, he would emerge from behind the curtain, to the relieved applause of the crowd.

The cabinet itself was damaged in a fire in 1995, but was later restored. Magician and collector David Copperfield went on to pay $300,000 for it in a 2004 auction.

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  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • 5daredevilofpieces