|J. Bartholomew Photo
June 13, 1922 – Representing the Illinois Athletic Club, John Weismuller smashes four world’s swimming records at Kahului on the island of Maui. Weismuller takes 14 seconds off the previous record in the 400-yard freestyle, finishing in 4:40.4. In the 400-meter freestyle he breaks the old world’s record by six seconds. He also sets a new record in the 500-yard freestyle and the 500-meter freestyle events. In addition to the records Weismuller also takes gold in the 100- and 50-yard freestyle races. The champion’s family came to the United States from Germany when he was just seven-months-old, eventually settling in Chicago where his father, Peter, worked as a brewer. When the young man contracted polio as a teenager, a doctor suggested he take up swimming to combat the ravages of the disease. He dropped out of Lane Technical High School, working as a lifeguard on Chicago beaches, eventually ending up as an elevator operator at the Illinois Athletic Club. It was there that he was given a chance to show his skill. A little over two years after his success in the Hawaiian Islands, Weismuller will compete in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, taking four gold medals. Four years later in the Amsterdam Olympic games he will win another two gold medals. In the early 1930’s he will ink a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, beginning a career that is notable for the six Tarzan movies in which he starred.
June 13, 1879 – Pipeman Henry T. Coyle, working on a hose-truck belonging to Engine No. 11 of the Chicago Fire Department, drowns when the truck is driven into the river at full speed. The night is dark, and the driver, next to whom Coyle is seated, cannot see whether the State Street bridge is in position for crossing. Unfortunately, the rotating bridge is in the open position, and the truck’s driver “dashed on through the darkness to the terrible catastrophe which followed.” [Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1879] The driver and another truckman leap from the truck, but Coyle drowns. It takes the better part of a day to find the body of the missing firefighter. The whole affair prompts the Chicago Daily Tribune to react strongly to the danger that the rotating bridges pose in this way, “The bridges of Chicago have been a continual source of danger and annoyance to the impetuous people of Chicago … Scarcely a week passes by that some accident does not occur at some of them, mostly on account of the impatience of pedestrians … Why people, great and small, will persist in swarming upon and over the bridges of our main thoroughfares while they are swinging, at the risk of life and limb, it would be hard to tell. The wonder is that more fatal accidents do not occur.”