Almanac: The first high-altitude jump


Andre-Jacques Garnerin descends in a basket attached to a parachute from about 1,000 meters above Parc Monceau in Paris, October 22, 1797.

Library of Congress

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: October 22nd, 1797, 220 years ago today … the day Frenchman Andre-Jacques Garnerin cut loose from a balloon 3,000 feet above Paris and drifted down to Earth in a basket underneath his own homemade parachute.

Garnerin survived the world's first documented high-altitude jump, and went on to make many more, before dying in an accident on the ground.

And what started as one daredevil's personal stunt had become serious business by the time World War II came around, when American parachutists fought from Port Moresby in New Guinea to North Africa.

Parachutes are being dropped at Ginkel H

Parachutes are being dropped at Ginkel Heath in Ede, the Netherlands, on September 19, 2009, marking the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden in World War II. 

Koen van Weel/AFP/Getty Images

Civilians could experience similar, if somewhat tamer, thrills on the world-famous Coney Island parachute jump, which operated until 1964.

These days, of course, just about anyone with the right training and supervision can share in the excitement of parachuting.

Exhibit One: Former President George H.W. Bush, who famously jumped to celebrate his 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays.

Former President Bush Celebrates 80th Birthday With Jump

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush performs a tandem parachute jump with Army Golden Knight Sgt. Bryan Schnell on June 13, 2004 over the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. Bush made two jumps to celebrate his 80th birthday - a ritual he would continue on his 85th and 90th birthdays. 

Getty Images

How many of us hope to make a similar claim?