Albert Berry (parachutist)

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Albert Berry collapses his parachute on Kinloch Field at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, after his jump on 1 March 1912.

Captain Albert Berry is one of two people credited as the first person to make a successful parachute jump from a powered airplane. The other contender is Grant Morton, who is reported to have jumped from a Wright Model B flying over Venice Beach, California sometime late in 1911. Morton's pilot was Phil Parmalee.[1]

On 1 March 1912, Berry jumped from a Benoist pusher biplane from 1,500 feet (457 m) and landed successfully at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The pilot was Tony Jannus. The 36 foot (11 m) diameter parachute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane - when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the parachute from the canister. Rather than being attached to the parachute by a harness Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. According to Berry he dropped 400 feet (122 m) before the parachute opened.

Early life: Albert Berry is the son of balloonist John Berry. While living in Detroit around 1891, John Berry and his wife separated. Albert was 10 years old at the time and stayed with his mother while John moved to St. Louis, Missouri. John did not see or know the whereabouts of his son until the fall of 1911 upon reading newspaper articles of a lynching and subsequent arrest of an balloonist named Albert Berry in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Upon reading the articles John reached out to the jailed man with a similar name and occupation offering assistance. He received a quick response from Albert Berry, stating he believed he was his son. After investigation John verified yes indeed is was his estranged son who was in jail for murder. Kansas City Times (Kansas City, MO) 10/5/1911 pg. 3 "It Was Captain Berry's Son".

In August 1911, Albert Berry was in West Chester, PA with his wife for a balloon exhibition. When a African-American man, Zachariah "Zack" Walker, was accused of murdering a Worth Brothers company police officer Edgar Rice in Coatesville, PA. A mob attempted to lynch Mr. Walker but a posse succeeded in getting him to jail. It is stated that Mr. Walker had attempted suicide when he was captured which resulted in serious injuries to his jaw. He was taken to the local hospital for surgery and afterward remained there in custody of a police guard. The next day the mob stormed the hospital overwhelming the sole guard and took Mr. Walker. That night Mr. Walker was burnt alive near Coatsville, PA. One reporter estimated the crowd gathered to watch the murder at 5,000 men, women and children. The mobs actions were condemned by regional newspapers, local and national political figures such as former-President Theodore Roosevelt. An investigation was launched but was hampered by a "conspiracy of silence". Albert Berry was arrested several days later after making incriminating statements to an officer. Police also believe Berry visited the jail on the day of the lynching to do reconnaissance for the mob that came later that night. Fifteen men and boys, nearly half under the age of 21, were indicted on charges related to the murder. Mr. Berry denied he actively participated in the lynching. Norman Walter Price, confessed to helping burn Mr. Walker and pled guilty to second degree murder. Mr. Price turned state's evidence and was the principal witness in the lynching trials. On October 11, 1911 Albert Berry and William Gilbert went on trial for murder. After two hours of deliberation the jury acquitted Berry and Gilbert. In all at least seven trials were held resulting in seven acquittals of the accused. Following the Berry acquittal the Deputy Attorney General J. E. B. Cunningham stated "it seems to be beyond human agency to secure a conviction in the killing of Walker." After multiple acquittals Cunningham asked the charges against the rest of the defendants be dropped as it was clear no convictions could be obtained. The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) 8/27/1911 pg. 1 "Eight Alleged Lynchers Held; Boys Tell All"; Lancaster Daily New Era (Lancaster, PA) 10/11/1911 pg. 1 "Two More Acquitted"; Carbondale Daily News (Carbondale, PA) 10/12/1911 pg. 1 "Acquit Alleged Lynchers"; Bowney, Dennis B., and Raymond M. Hyser. "A Crooked Death": Coatesville, Pennsylvania and the Lynching of Zachariah Walker," Pennsylvania State University Journal.


  • "Jefferson Barracks". Archived from the original on 5 September 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • "Early History". Australian Parachute Federation. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)