1920, English, Fotografía, Photography

Balancing Heights: Charles N. Fitzgerald’s Iconic Photograph at the McAlpin Hotel

Picture this: you’re in 1920s New York, strolling down the bustling streets of Manhattan. Suddenly, you look up and see a daring man performing an incredible balancing act on the edge of a luxurious hotel’s cornice. This scene, which could be straight out of a movie, is actually the subject of an iconic photograph that captures the adventurous and courageous spirit of the time. In this image, Captain Charles N. Fitzgerald, a specialist and acrobat, defies gravity while balancing on the structure of the famous McAlpin Hotel in New York.

Police Aviation force commander, Captain Charles N. Fitzgerald, performing a stunt in New York, circa 1920

The photograph shows Fitzgerald hanging from a structure while maintaining balance on the narrow edge of the hotel’s cornice. More than twenty stories high, the background of the image offers a panoramic view of Manhattan’s skyline, accentuating the acrobat’s impressive feat. With this introduction to Charles N. Fitzgerald’s photograph at the McAlpin Hotel, let’s delve into the story behind this iconic image and explore how it reflects the bravery and adventurous spirit of an era that still captivates our imagination.

Can you imagine the audacity of Captain Fitzgerald, performing such a breathtaking act of equilibrium on the edge of a towering building, with only the expansive skyline of Manhattan as his backdrop? It’s no wonder that his photograph has become so emblematic of the boldness and daring of the Roaring Twenties.

In the early 20th century, the McAlpin Hotel was known for its opulence and grandeur, and it became a symbol of the city’s prosperity and sophistication. Fitzgerald’s photograph captures not only the beauty of the building’s architecture, but also the boldness and audacity of the people who called New York their home.

It’s amazing to think that Fitzgerald’s photograph, taken over a century ago, still inspires awe and admiration today. In a world where we often play it safe and avoid risk, Fitzgerald’s daring and courage serve as a reminder of the limitless potential of the human spirit. Let’s raise a glass to Captain Charles N. Fitzgerald and his iconic photograph, a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the bravery of those who dare to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

The Historical Context

The 1920s, often referred to as the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age”, was a period of significant social, economic, and cultural change. After the devastation of World War I, people were looking to enjoy life and explore new forms of entertainment. The US economy experienced rapid growth, and cities like New York became centers of innovation, art, and culture. During this era, the public was fascinated by acts of bravery and audacity, and figures like Charles N. Fitzgerald captured people’s attention with their exciting and risky stunts.

In this context, Fitzgerald’s photograph at the McAlpin Hotel reflects the mentality of the time and the society’s desire to push the limits and live life to the fullest. The image became a symbol of the search for thrills and the fearless attitude that characterized the 1920s, and its popularity contributed to the public’s fascination with acrobatic feats and daring acts.

1921 Print Charles Fitzgerald Stunt Captain Skyscraper ORIGINAL HISTOR – Period Paper Historic Art LLC

The McAlpin Hotel, opened in 1912, was a significant landmark in New York City during the 1920s. Located in Herald Square, the hotel was near iconic places like the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden. At the time, the McAlpin was one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in the world, with over 1500 rooms and a host of amenities. The hotel became a symbol of the city’s prosperity and sophistication, and Fitzgerald’s choice to perform his stunt at this iconic location gave it even greater relevance.

Hotel McAlpin, New York – Early 20th CenturyVisit

Charles N. Fitzgerald’s photograph at the McAlpin Hotel not only captures the audacity of one man but also the spirit of an era in which society sought excitement and entertainment in increasingly spectacular ways. By understanding the historical context in which this iconic image was taken, we can further appreciate the impact and significance of this moment frozen in time.

Charles N. Fitzgerald

Charles N. Fitzgerald was an American specialist and acrobat whose life and career were characterized by his bravery and ability to perform impressive feats. Although not much is known about his early years and education, it’s clear that from a young age he demonstrated a passion for acrobatics and spectacle.

Fitzgerald began his career as an acrobat in the circus, where he honed his skills and learned to master the art of balance and physical prowess. Over time, he became a specialist in risky and dangerous stunts, and his reputation led him to be known as “Captain” among his peers and the public.

Captain Charles N. Fitzgerald

Throughout his career, Fitzgerald carried out a series of feats and tricks that defied gravity and tested the limits of human audacity. Among his most notable acts were:

  • Climbing tall structures, such as bridges and skyscrapers, without safety equipment.
  • Performing stunts on top of moving cars, such as standing on his hands or doing flips.
  • Walking on cables or ropes suspended at great heights between buildings.

These feats caught the attention of the press and the public, making Fitzgerald a prominent figure in his field and a symbol of bravery and audacity. His stunt at the McAlpin Hotel was one of his most iconic moments and helped solidify his reputation as a fearless acrobat and specialist.

The life and career of Charles N. Fitzgerald are a reminder of the determination and courage that characterize those who dare to challenge what seems impossible. Through his feats and tricks, Fitzgerald left a mark on the history of entertainment and the imagination of those who are inspired by his intrepid spirit.

The Balancing Trick

The balancing trick performed by Charles N. Fitzgerald on the cornice of the McAlpin Hotel was a spectacular and thrilling feat that left audiences awestruck. To carry out this trick, Fitzgerald climbed to the edge of the hotel’s cornice, which was located more than twenty stories high. Without any safety equipment and seemingly fearless of heights, he hung from the structure.

Fitzgerald’s audacity in performing this dangerous stunt captured the public’s attention, who were fascinated by his bravery and skill. Many spectators gathered in the streets to watch the trick live, while others followed the news through newspapers and radio. The image of Fitzgerald balancing on the hotel’s cornice quickly spread and became a topic of conversation in the city and throughout the country.

Captain Charles N. Fitzgerald

The people’s reaction at the time was one of amazement and disbelief. Some admired Fitzgerald’s bravery, while others considered his trick reckless and foolhardy. Nonetheless, his act became a symbol of the bravery and adventure that characterized the era. Fitzgerald’s photograph at the McAlpin Hotel captured the essence of the “Roaring Twenties” and society’s desire to push the limits and seek intense emotions.

Ultimately, the image of Charles N. Fitzgerald performing his balancing trick at the McAlpin Hotel became an iconic representation of the audacity and adventurous spirit of the 1920s. This photograph remains a testament to Fitzgerald’s courage and skill and a reminder of the public’s fascination with acrobatic feats and daring acts during that time in history.

Legacy and Current Relevance

The iconic photograph of Charles N. Fitzgerald performing his balancing trick at the McAlpin Hotel has left a lasting legacy on the perception of acrobats and specialists over time. The image illustrates the human ability to defy limits and overcome fears, which has influenced how we view those who perform daring and exciting acts today.

The photograph has contributed to society valuing and admiring the skill, courage, and dedication required to perform risky and dangerous acrobatic feats. Moreover, it has served as inspiration for later generations of acrobats, specialists, and extreme sports athletes, who continue to push the limits of what is considered possible in their respective disciplines.

For today’s audience, the image of Fitzgerald at the McAlpin Hotel can serve as a reminder of the importance of pursuing our dreams and facing our fears, regardless of the difficulties or risks involved. Although most people will not attempt such risky feats as Fitzgerald’s, his intrepid spirit and bravery can inspire others to face their own challenges and overcome their personal limits.

In our current society, the search for thrills remains an important aspect of the human experience. Through extreme sports, adventure activities, and other forms of exciting entertainment, many people continue to seek experiences that allow them to push their limits and live life to the fullest. Fitzgerald’s image at the McAlpin Hotel resonates with this desire and demonstrates that, even in past times, the pursuit of thrills and the bravery to face the unknown have been an integral part of the human nature.


The photograph of Charles N. Fitzgerald performing his balance trick at the Hotel McAlpin is an iconic moment in history and popular culture that encapsulates the daring and adventurous spirit of the 1920s. Throughout this article, we have explored the historical context in which the image was taken, Fitzgerald’s life and career as an acrobat and specialist, the balance trick itself, and the current relevance and legacy of the photograph.

Fitzgerald’s image defying gravity on the cornice of the Hotel McAlpin has left a lasting impression on the perception of acrobats and specialists over time and has served as inspiration for subsequent generations of extreme athletes and artists. The photograph has also influenced how society values the skill, courage, and dedication required to perform bold and exciting feats, and its popularity has contributed to the public’s fascination with activities that push boundaries and seek thrills.

Ultimately, the image of Charles N. Fitzgerald at the Hotel McAlpin remains a powerful reminder of the audacity and adventurous spirit of the past. Although our society has changed in many ways since the 1920s, the photograph reminds us that bravery and determination to face the unknown and overcome fears are universal and timeless characteristics of the human experience. By reflecting on this iconic image, we can find inspiration to face our own challenges and pursue our passions, always remembering the legacy of those who dared to defy what seemed impossible.