The adventures of the bridge jumper

Jacob Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Steve Brodie's 1886 jump from the Brooklyn Bridge created a particularly modern fame that has much to tell us about the emergence of modern media celebrity and the kinds of spectacular stunt performances that could be mobilised to create it in the years just before the cinema. Bridge jumpers such as Brodie took the modern urban landscape as their backdrop, but also found a place on the melodramatic stage, collapsing distinctions between indoor and outdoor entertainment. Brodie's celebrity was articulated through newspaper coverage and a constellation of amusement forms, including the saloon, the dime museum and the popular stage, but it pointed towards a distinctly cinematic form of entertainment and stardom. Brodie's career thus sheds new light on the intertextuality of late nineteenth-century celebrity, and reveals a practice of public self-creation at that time beyond more familiar realms of fame. Brodie's embodiment of a working-class urban subculture of 'Bowery Boys' reveals the limitations of a model of celebrity that is based on a rigid distinction between 'folk' and 'mass' culture, and the discussion surrounding his multi-media presence provides a rich case study in the democratic potential of nineteenth-century celebrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-34
Number of pages14
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Celebrity
  • Early cinema
  • New york city
  • Performance
  • Publicity
  • Subculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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