Alameda Mole… Monday, May 31…Capt. Paul Boyton… Blowing Up of a Full-rigged Ship. Farewell Appearance.
4 1/2 x 7 1/2 inch handbill, printed identically on both sides, depicting Boyton and his suit in various poses.
Paul Boyton, born in Ireland, was a Navy diver and Life Saving Service veteran who became known as “The Fearless Frogman.” He might also be legitimately regarded as one of the earliest proponents of what we now know as the survival suit. Boytons suit (actually invented by one C.S. Merriam of Iowa) was made of vulcanized rubber. Air chambers provided flotation. He was a tireless self-promoter, writing at least one book and appearing in waterfront cities throughout the US and Europe. In the 1870s he made quite a splash demonstrating his rubber swimming apparatus. He would have himself dumped far from shore and then paddle for hours to land safely. Once he even crossed the English Channel. I’ve had other ephemeral items tracing his career, including one which included as a finale the Explosion of a Miniature Vessel. The present item places him all the way west, in San Francisco Bay, still blowing up that ship, but by now failing to mention that it was a miniature. Monday, May 3, as advertised in this handbill, occurred in 1881, which fits nicely into his timeline. He settled in Chicago in the 1880s, then moved on to Coney Island, establishing an amusement concession that would become Luna Park. No copies on Worldcat. Very good condition.