Leo Stevens, “The Human Bomb,” Had Cooperstown Area Roots!
A. Leo Stevens, who opened up the first private airfield in America in 1909 is buried in the Fly Creek, N.Y. cemetery.
Stevens was a famous "aeronaut" who was one of the first people to successfully use a parachute. He was famous for his early balloon stunts. He once lifted off from Wanamakers Department Store in New York City heading for Philadelphia but winds forced him down in the Hudson River town of West Nyack. This was the early days of ballooning and his events drew large crowds. His interest in balloons led his to pilot one of the first dirigibles in America in 1906.
He was a colorful showman who was popular with the American public and press. His most outrageous stunt was known as The Human Bomb. At the Pan Am Exposition in Buffalo in September, 1901 he performed this act to a crowd of thousands. A large balloon ascended over the fair grounds trailing a large, round ball. This was the "bomb" with Stevens inside. At a designated height the "bomb" exploded and out burst Leo Stevens flying through the air. Suddenly a parachute opened up and he floated to the ground to the cheers of the throng below.
He always referred to himself (and even signed his official papers) as "Aeronaut No. 1". It is that inscription that is on his grave in Fly Creek.
A. Leo Stevens is considered a brave aviation pioneer and a major aviation award in his name is given each year. He is credited with perfecting the safety features used in wartime parachutes. He spent the last years of his life at his farm (known by locals as "The Balloon House") in the Fly Creek/Oaksville area where he continued to make homemade parachutes, fly balloons and regale the young ones in the neighborhood with tales of his daring life.