Almanac: The first flying trapeze act


On November 12, 1859, Jules Leotard astonished a Paris audience by defying gravity. 

CBS News

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: November 12, 1859, 158 years ago today … a day for defying gravity.

Jules Leotard
Aerialist Jules Leotard. Paul Fearn/Alamy

For that was the day Jules Leotard performed the world's first flying trapeze act in Paris.

His aerial acrobatics astonished audiences, while his costume, created by his wife, came to be known as, yes, the leotard.

As if that weren't enough, Jules Leotard also inspired the popular lyric "The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze."

Many a daring young man (and woman) followed Leotard's lead over the years, including former circus performer Burt Lancaster, who starred in the 1956 movie "Trapeze," with co-stars Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida.

And with proper instruction, almost anyone can try the trapeze, as CBS's Hattie Kauffman proved at the San Francisco Circus Center back in 1996.

From the archive: School of Circus Arts 03:47

One word of caution: Even if you decide there's a trapeze in your future, you might want to think twice about wearing that leotard.