The postcard, above.,started me on a search to see if I could find out who the performer was. I used the description “Death Trap Loop” to search on online newspaper websites. That quickly lead to the name of Oscar V. Babcock. Further investigation in newspapers told me that he performed his bicycle act at Ontario Beach Park for a week beginning July 15th 1907. The first part of his act was to climb the 60 foot tower and ride his nickel-plated bicycle down the ramp and around the loop. The second part of his act was to come down the ramp and jump 40 feet across to a platform. That second part at times was called “flying the flume” or “jump the gap.”
Oscar started out as a bicycle racer. A newspaper reference has him participating in a 6 day race in New York City in 1898. The next year he was racing in Washington, DC. Oscar started his bicycle loop act in 1904. He only got into trouble once. In 1906 he was at Madison Square Garden and the loop moved. He ended up crashing on the floor but suffered only minor injuries. In 1910 there is a newspaper notice that Oscar was going to fly a biplane at Long Island. Sometime about 1917 Oscar used his same set-up and traversed the loop with an Indian motorcycle. He came back to Ontario Beach Park on July 4th 1917. Did he run the loop with with both his bicycle and a motorcycle? I couldn’t find any evidence that he had the motorcycle for that visit. In 1921 he also took his act to Havana, Cuba and in 1922 he went to Honolulu, Hawaii to open a new amusement park. Oscar did the bicycle loop all over the US and parts of Canada until at least 1935.
There was a full page advertisement in the March 10, 1910 issue of Billboard magazine offering his act to parks and fairs around the US. In that ad he says that “(I) costume my act elaborately.” In fact, he dressed in a silver colored suit to match his bicycle. Also in the ad, he says “I carry six tons of apparatus. This is the biggest, most sensational and flashiest act in the world.” The picture at the bottom of this blog post is of Oscar about 1910.
Oscar Varley Babcock was born on July 30, 1875 in New York City to Oscar and Harriet (Crofton) Babcock. Oscar married Mabelle Spindler (born May 13, 1880) on Feb. 26, 1907 in Boston, Mass. Mabelle died Jan. 25, 1919 in Winthrop, Mass. as one of the victims of the influence epidemic of that time. Oscar married a second time on June 7, 1924 in Warren County, Illinois to Ella Emergene Johnson. Oscar never had any children. Emergene died in 1953 and Oscar died in 1957 and is buried in Monmouth Cemetery, Monmouth, Illinois.