The bike-chute aeronaut


In the 1890s, during the heyday of bicycling and ballooning, a daring entrepreneur apparently figured out a way to combine both pursuits — and lure paying customers to watch him do it.
His name was Charles H. Kabrich, billed as “the only bike-chute aeronaut.”
Except for the poster at the left, almost nothing is known about Kabrich. The only hits that turn up in searches on the Internet are about the poster and where to buy it. Some vendors even offer the image on a T-shirt.
Judging from the poster, Kabrich’s “novel and thrilling bicycle parachute act in mid-air” consisted of ascending by balloon astride a bicycle and then parachuting back to earth while performing acrobatics on the bike.
I came across the 1896 Kabrich poster while trolling the Internet for vintage bicycle advertisements to display on this blog. I had never heard of Kabrich or his act and was intrigued. But so far, I’ve found nothing. You now know everything about him that I do.
A Web page on balloons and airships of Florida International University says that “people began jumping with parachutes from balloons” in the 1880s and 1890s, the time frame in which Kabrich was performing his stunt with a bicycle.
“Most of the hot air balloons used in stunts were very dangerous,” the FIU Web page says.
“Unlike earlier balloons, which were built better and carried their heat source, these balloons used in stunts were held over bonfires trapping the heated air and then lifting off. Many of the barnstormers were killed or injured when their balloons ripped apart, cooled off too fast, or burst into flames. For the most part, the end of the nineteenth century saw the end of the balloonist performing stunts.”
Perhaps little is known about Kabrich because he was able to perform his stunt only once.
If any reader of this blog knows anything more about this 19th-century Evel Knievel, drop a comment at the bottom of this post. This innovative barnstormer seems to deserve more of a legacy than a poster on a T-shirt.

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6 Comments

Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, History

6 responses to “The bike-chute aeronaut

  1. Pingback: Daring feats on two wheels « Jim’s Bike Blog

  2. Robin Kabrich

    I have been researching my family name, Kabrich, on Genealogy Bank, and I came across numerous newspaper articles and/or ads about this man. I’m not sure where he belongs in the family tree, but the articles were quite interesting. Send me an email, and I will give you more information!

  3. Robin

    I believe he is in my family tree – although I can’t absolutely verify it. All I’ve found about these exploits are some newspaper articles at Geneaology Bank.

  4. Ken Brann

    My grandfather, Fred W. Bickford studied under Prof.Kabrich and I have the posters and a letter from Prof. Kabrich certifying my grandfather as an aeronaut

    • Would you please contact me about this? I would love to see a copy of that letter! I believe Prof. Kabrich is a cousin of mine, and I’ve been trying to verify that he is the Charles H. Kabrich in my family tree. It’s not a common name, after all.

  5. Ken Brann

    It is my belief that my Grandfather, Frew W. Bickford did in fact make more than a few rides on the bike as featured in the posters that I have and I remember my Grandmother telling me she made his parachutes for him and he flew in a kite made by Charles Lamson.

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