Wrestling, parachuting at the fair

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Sometimes a guy has to have two jobs to make ends meet.

That was the case with “Prof. Thayer,” who paid Jamestown a visit in the summer of 1910.

Not a lot is known about Thayer. If he was actually a professor, there is no indication in the newspapers of the day as to his field of expertise.

In fact, there really isn’t any proof that Thayer was his real name but we will have to refer to him by that handle in the absence of the confirmation of any other name.

Thayer wrestled the preliminary match at the Orpheum Theatre in Jamestown in late June. According to The Jamestown Alert, he defeated a local wrestler by the name of Chuck Sowall in two straight falls.


The big match of the night featured a Native American who went by the name War Eagle, who defeated two local wrestlers one after the other in the course of about a half-hour.

War Eagle was his own traveling show taking on local wrestlers, two at a time, for a share of the gate.

After his win in the wrestling ring, Thayer moved on to his real job.

Thayer was billed as an aerialist and provided a parachute drop from a helium balloon as part of the entertainment at the Stutsman County Fair.

That job turned out to be much more dangerous than wrestling some local athlete.

The act called for Thayer to be suspended below a big helium balloon. When the balloon rose to a proper height, Thayer would release from the gas bag and float gracefully to the fairgrounds below with the parachute.

At least that was the plan.

“The big gas bag of Prof. Thayer failed to arise when turned loose,” wrote the Alert. “… The aerialist was dragged hanging to his parachute still attached to the balloon, at a few feet above the ground and finally struck a tree along the river near the Russell Milling Co. mill.”


The fairgrounds at that time was where McElroy Park is now. The Russell Milling flour mill was near where the First Community Credit Union building is now at the base of Mill Hill.

Being dragged through the air a couple of feet above the ground would have been scary but wouldn’t have caused any injury.

That sudden stop when Thayer hit the tree was going to leave a mark.

“Prof. Thayer was scratched and shaken but climbed down without serious injury,” the Alert reported.

Thayer performed his parachute act at least twice more during the Stutsman County Fair. The aerialist managed to stay out of the trees for both of those performances.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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