This is to give Notice to All Gentlemen and Ladies, that John Childs has flown off of most of the highest Steeples in Old-England, and off of the Monument by the Duke of Cumberland’s Desire, and does intend this Day, and two Days following, to fly off of Dr. Cutler’s Church, where he hopes to give full Satisfaction to all Spectators.The Monument was the 202-foot-tall column built in London to commemorate the Great Fire of 1666.
The Duke of Cumberland was Prince William Augustus, younger son of George II. As a British army commander, he had just been captured by the French at Klosterzeven, but Boston didn’t know that yet.
Dr. Cutler’s church was Christ Church in the North End of Boston, the same church that today we call Old North. And today a plaque on the building reads:
Here on September 13, 1757, John Childs – who had given public notice of his intention to fly from the steeple of Dr. Cutler’s church – performed it to the satisfaction of a great number of spectators.For perhaps two hundred years now people have been puzzled about how exactly John Childs “flew.” And tour guides love to fill any vacuum of knowledge with confident statements of fact, however shaky. iBoston says Childs flew with “an umbrella-like contraption.” Citysearch says he used “a rudimentary glider.” CelebrateBoston says he was “Tethered to a rope, and attached to a feathered glider.” All wrong. Harvard’s First-Year Urban Program, to its credit, says, “no one really knows what this [flying] means.”
In 1923, the year of the first continuous flight across the continent, this tablet has been placed here by the Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America to commemorate the two events.
TOMORROW: What this “flying” means.