Peter Nissen: Chicago Hero on Film

We’ve covered Peter Nissen, the Chicago Daredevil before. This is the guy who twice shot the Niagara Falls rapids in ships of his own devising, and then perished while trying to cross Lake Michigan in a giant canvas balloon called (a tad clairevoyantly) The Fool Killer III.

Here we have a film of his second attempt to shoot the rapids aboard the Fool Killer II, which was said to be the smallest steam ship ever. Even knowing how it ends, it’s a pretty suspenseful minute or two of footage! It makes you wonder how in the HELL he survived in the Fool Killer 1, which was open, so he could wave at people. He had only thought to add shoulder straps at the last minute!

This was filmed by the Edison company. It’s now in the library of congress. This ship is not to be confused with The Fool Killer Submarine, one of our other favorite topics, which was probably so-named due to an erroneous claim that it was one of Nissen’s ships (though making a home-made submarine sure does SOUND like the sort of thing he’d do). Looking at this ship, it sort of makes you wonder if Deneau, the guy who found the sub, actually thought it was this thing at first….

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