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From the Flying Pioneers Biographies of Harold E. Morehouse

Thomas S. Baldwin
Pioneer Aeronaut - Plane Builder - Aviator

Thomas S. Baldwin was born in Decatur, Illinois, June 30, 1854, the son of a physician. He started school in 1862, and during his early boyhood both parents died. 
As a result, he ran away from school to make his own way in the world. In succession he became a newsboy, gaslighter, book canvasser and gymnast.
At Hot Springs, Arkansas, a circus performer taught him tight wire walking, then Baldwin joined the circus and remained a tight wire and trape[[strikethrough]] s[[//strikethough]]ze artist for several years. After this he devised a new attraction by going up in a hot air balloon and performing on a trape[[strikethrough]] s[[//strikethough]]ze during the ascension.
In 1885 Baldwin stretched a wire 700 feet long between the Cliff House and Seal Rocks at San Francisco, California, and made Sunday afternoon exhibitiions by walking this wire back and forth, 90 to 100 feet above the waves in the gorge below. From this act he went to captive ballooning and this led to his interest in developing a parachute so that he could jump from a balloon.
After much experimenting and careful testing, Baldwin made the first parachute jump ever made in the United States. The jump from the balloon "Eclipse," owned by A. Van Tassell, at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco on January 30th, 1887, and landed in the front yard of a small house. Following this he immediately began traveling with his parachute, giving exhibitions about the country.
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