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VANDERVOORT, ROBERT B.

VANDERVOORT, ROBERT B. (1869–1906). Robert B. Vandervoort, stuntman, was born in 1869 in Corpus Christi. Brought up by his widowed mother, Ellen Sims, and her husband, Richard J. Shirley, Vandervoort was known as a daredevil even as a child. He reportedly walked a 500-foot slack wire over a part of Corpus Christi Bay when he was still a boy, in order to humiliate the professional performer and the promoter who had arranged the show. He worked for a time with his stepfather in the construction of sheet-metal cisterns in Corpus Christi, and instructed himself in the fundamental principles of electricity. In 1891, Vandervoort moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as an electrician. He married Mary E. Brennan there in 1900. After watching Joseph Mack, who was the first to attempt a loop-the-loop in Madison Square Garden September 8, 1901, Vandervoort set to work trying to accomplish the feat without bodily harm. Mack broke his leg in his attempt to do a complete circle. Vandervoort helped build a loop-the-loop forty feet in diameter at Sea Beach Palace at Coney Island. H. L. Stewart made an attempt to do the loop-the-loop there on October 16, 1901. He was successful the first time, but could not repeat the accomplishment. Vandervoort decided to give it a try. To make the runway more visible, he painted a black line down the middle. He depended entirely on coasting down the slope, keeping to the middle of the path marked by a black stripe. With practice, he found he could do the loop-the-loop every time needed. Vandervoort chose the stage name "Diavalo" and demonstrated the feat numbers of times. He made a tour of Europe, had a fourteen-week engagement in Berlin, and had a command performance before King Edward VII on May 3, 1903, in London. His career was brought to a tragic end on November 20, 1906, when a railway car in which he was sleeping overturned near Rome, New York.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Corpus Christi Caller, January 3, 1902, November 9, 1906.

Frank Wagner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Frank Wagner, "VANDERVOORT, ROBERT B.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fva41), accessed July 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 26, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.