- Steve Brodie, a newsboy did on July 23, 1886, what people thought was impossible to do and still live. He jumped from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. And for that foolhardy leap, won a bet of $200. According to The New York Times, Brodie sneaked around the Brooklyn Bridge guards, climbed to the lowest chord, and plunged into the water 135 feet below. Friends in a rowboat were waiting to rescue the twenty-three-year-old daredevil. Brodie was arrested for endangering his life and was severely reprimanded by a judge. One should bear in mind, however, that Brodie's claim to have jumped off the bridge is questionable; although he was pulled from the water, no one actually saw him jump. Many people believe he never did it. The opinion of Boxing Commissioner William Muldoon, as reported in the New York Times, July 23, 1986, the 100th anniversary of the day Brodie supposedly jumped, was that his so-called exploit "was a fake and that an unbiased investigation had shown that by a clever bit of trickery with a dummy it had been made to appear that Brodie had made the leap." However, he used his fame from this purported leap to branch into acting (he was the subject of a hit play called On the Bowery) and other money-making ventures that kept him in the public spotlight for the rest of his life. In the 1983 gangster cinema The Bowery, Brodie was portrayed by the late George Raft. Brodie has been immortalized by the phrase to do a brodie, which is now proverbial for "to take a chance."The slang term brodie represents a suicidal leap. A story that made the rounds is that Brodie met Jim Corbett's father sometime before the Jim Corbett-John L. Sullivan prizefight and predicted that Sullivan would knock out his son. Mr. Corbett looked down at little Brodie and sneered, "So you're the fellow who jumped over the Brooklyn Bridge." Brodie's riposte was, "No, I jumped off of it." To which the senior Corbett remarked, "I thought you jumped over the bridge. Any damn fool could jump off of it."
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.