Paul Boyton

 (often misspelled Boynton) (b. June 29, 1848 in Ratthangan, Kildare County, Ireland — April 19, 1924), known as the Fearless Frogman, was a showman and adventurer some credit as having spurred worldwide interest in water sports as a hobby, particularly open-water swimming. Boyton, whose birthplace is variously listed as Dublin or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is best known for his water stunts that captivated the world, including crossing the English Channel in a novel rubber suit that functioned similarly to a kayak.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

US Copyright: April 26th. 2006. TXu1-292-939


  In “Captain Paul Boyton: Roughing It in Rubber: 
True Adventure Story of One Man’s 25,000 Miles in a Vulcanized Rubber Suit”  shares the compelling life story of a globetrotter whose wanderlust and passion for his beliefs led him to have an impact on many lives.

  As a boy,  Paul Boyton, loved to swim and to try dangerous tricks in the water, much to the dismay of his parents, who feared he would drown. When he was fourteen Paul enlisted in the United States Navy in order to help fight in the Civil War. He would achieve the rank of yeoman before being discharged. After that, Paul was sent to work in the West Indies, where his love of the water came in handy. He easily befriended his fellow workers, who regaled one another with stories of adventure and mischief.

  Paul’s travels took him to New York, where he became a merchant in Cape May, where he also gained a reputation for saving swimmer’s lives amid the angry seas. Eventually, Paul suffered a fire and great personal loss at the death of his father,  these changes provoked him to head to Europe and enroll in the French military to aid in the cause of the Franco-Prussian war.
  After numerous skirmishes, battles, and brushes with the law, Paul decided to return to the United States, where he held an assortment of jobs before traveling again, this time to Africa. Eventually, he returned to the United States and settled in Atlantic City, where he worked at a life-saving service. There, he discovered the wonders of the vulcanized rubber suit and became dedicated to sharing its life-saving purposes with others. He decided to push the suit to its limits, testing it to see under which extreme conditions it would still work properly.
   This marked the beginning of a new set of adventures and worldwide travels for Paul, as he set out to educate people the world over in the use of the vulcanized rubber suit. The majority of the manuscript describes this quest, which was often fulfilled through elaborate and risky swimming and diving exhibitions. Word of Paul’s work spread and his reputation grew, both at home and abroad. He continued to travel, embarking on numerous expeditions on many of the United States’ great rivers. You recount the dangers he faced and survived, among them rough waters, malicious humans, and wild animals. Paul opened several amusement parks before passing away in April 1924.
   Supplementing your manuscript with maps, letters, diary entries, and prints adds depth and dimension to “Captain Paul Boyton: Roughing It in Rubber: True Adventure Story of One Man’s 25,000 Miles in a Vulcanized Rubber Suit.” Your exhaustive research is evident and lends credibility to your story. 
   Readers who enjoy adventure stories or quirky biographies and history would be drawn to this book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Rubber Suit.

From Cap: 
   “It was 1874 when I donned my first rubber suit.
It was composed of vulcanized rubber and consists of two distinct sections, both joined at the waist. The pantaloons end in a band of steel over which the lower part of the tunic fits with a strap covering it all, thus making a perfectly water-tight joint. At the back of the head, the back, the breast and on each thigh there are five internal compartments, each have a tube for the purpose of inflating them with air from the mouth. The face is the only part of the body exposed to the weather when completely encased in the rubber suit.
I float on my back, and propel my body feet foremost with a double-bladed paddle at the rate of a hundred strokes per minute. When ever I choose I can get into an upright position. For the purpose on conveying provisions etc., for a long trip I have a small iron boat, which I named “Baby Mine”, this boat is thirty inches long, twelve inches wide and twelve inches deep. She is completely closed other than the hatch which is protected by a water tight cover.
  With a line attached to my belt I carried the following items: couple of bottles of ginger ale, ten days provisions, cigars, quinine and other emergency medications such as brandy, etc., frying pan, coffee, kettle, spoon, knife and fork. A cup, a spirit stove, pen and ink, notebook, signal rockets, chronometer, barometer, thermometer, revolver, 
charts, maps, hatchet, ammunition, including a patch cloth and rubber cement. Attached to the deck is a headlight and clock. 
   “I began my  voyages on October 1874. sailing from New York on the Queen of the National Line, Captain Bragg in command,  my object was to jump overboard when we were two hundred and fifty miles from the American shore. I wanted to use this method to show the rubber suit off as a life saving device to the world. 
   From my early childhood I had a fascination for water and the water seemed to call me, my parents did not  relish the idea,and always feared that I would be drowned.”   

Queen Victoria and The Royal Yacht.

The letter written home by Paul about this date: 

Paul's descriptions:   
” The Yacht I boarded seemed as big as a man-o-war.  A marine stopped me on the gang plank with a question, “whom do you wish to see?”  “Why the captain of course.
The sentry called to a petty officer, who escorted me to the captain, he then led me to a gorgeously furnished cabin. When I introduced myself, the weather beaten tar grasped me warmly by the hand and invited me to be seated and accept a refreshment. 
 While discussing the plans, we also talked over my exhibition before the Queen the next day.  I was anxious to present myself in the presence of royalty in a creditable manner, so I questioned the captain on all the aspects possible. He told me that to please the Queen, anything I do will have to be done quickly. In answer to my question, how will I greet her, he said:  “In addressing Her Majesty. After that you may continue the conversation with the word madame.”
   “Well that won’t be difficult, I thought, I can get through it alright.” 
Startled I said:  “Holy blue, Captain, look at that man coming aboard now, without any pants on.” “That gentleman,” said the Captain, “ is John Brown, Her Majesty’s most faithful servant and that is the National Scottish dress he wears, known as a kilt.” As I was gazing at John Brown in utter disbelief the Captain said,  “Walk right aft. Her Majesty is waiting for you.”
   I might as well confess to you that my idea of a Queen had been formed by seeing the play Hamlet, where the Queen was this most elegant lady all dressed in white fur and a 
crown on her head. 
  I certainly did not think that the Queen of England would dress in this dull way, as I thought she would have something to distinguish her from the coterie of ladies that surrounded her on deck. Then I saw the face of the Queen which I had seen in photographs in London stores. She was a stout, motherly woman, more plainly dressed than any one around her.  
I looked at her for a second and said:
     “Your Majesty I believe.”  With a kindly smile she answered,  “Yes.”
     “Will I take the water, Your Majesty?”
I was confused by the mistake I nearly made, in mistaking the maid of Honor for the Queen.
   “If you please,” she responded with a kindly  smile.
It didn’t take me long to get over the the side of that vessel, as you can imagine.  
   Remembering the Captain’s  warning not to keep her waiting for to long, I dove through the exhibition as fast as I could give it and clambered aboard again, the perspiration was running over my  forehead.  
   Once back on deck, I bowed to the Queen again and was about to go forward when she stopped me and said,
   “Captain Boyton, I am both delighted and astonished at your wonderful skills in the water, 
 I believe that the rubber suit  will be a great means of saving many valuable lives.” 
  She asked me how old I was and many other questions. 
An elegant young lady who stood at her side asked, “Don’t you feel very tired after such exertion and do your clothes get wet under the suit?’   “Oh, no Miss, not the least.”
After my answer a laugh went up from the royal group and I  said,  “to prove to your Majesty that I am perfectly dry underneath, I am with your permission going to take off the rubber suit. I assure you I am fully dressed underneath it.”-( in woolen underwear.)
   Seeing that she did not object, I quickly unbuckled the tunic and pulled it over my head, dropping it on the deck, I then kicked off the  pants. 
  Standing there in my stocking feet before the Queen of England. 
The Queen examined the mechanism of the suit, she said.  “ I would like to have a suit made for the use on this Yacht, and I  wish you a safe journey across the channel.”  Seeing the interview was about over I took the opportunity to say, “Your Majesty, I hope you will excuse any errors I have made, as I am not familiar with court etiquette, as you are aware we do not have Royalty in the USA.”       
   “You did very well, Captain.”


Monday, October 5, 2009

Crossing The Straits Of Gibraltar

Moving on to Gibraltar: 

Determined to cross the Straits of Gibraltar, with very little encouragement, constantly being warned about the sharks, supposedly numerous in these waters. 
  An English officer took Paul to the back of the Abators, this building is on the water, so he could see the large blue sharks waiting on the offal, that's thrown from this slaughter house,
this was not enough to make Paul change his mind, as he continued his plans for the trip.
   To paddle from Gibraltar to Ceuta, which is almost straight across the straits, as the currents would not let him do this, the plan was changed to Tarifa, the lowest land in Europe. From this point he should be able to strike the African coast.  The Spanish felucca, San Augustine, was chartered for the two men from Gibraltar and the captain with a crew of five sailors.  Thursday, March 19th, they sailed from Gibraltar. Nearing the Spanish side, flying the American flag, when they were pulled up by a Spanish gunboat, searching the San Augustine as they were under the impression that, they were smuggling tobacco, it was extremely hard to get the officials to understand what Paul was planning to do, finally allowing them to continue the voyage.
  Arriving off Tarifa at 11 pm,  the captain refused to cross without clearance papers. Going into the old Moorish looking town, waking up one sleepy official after another, it was not until seven the next morning, before they could get clearance papers. Sharks were not the only danger Paul had to deal with, the wind and currents are usually variable. In the middle the current could be eastward, on each side both flood and ebb tides extend between a quarter of a mile to two miles from the shore, this can change several times a day, according to the weather and winds.    
   Seven thirty am, Paul was dressed and ready to set off, for the first time in all his voyages, he took the precaution of screwing sharp steel sword blades to each end of his double bladed paddle, with these he felt confident that he could stand up in the water and rip open any shark that approached him, also carrying a large dagger fastened to his wrist. Jumping into the sea amidst the enthusiastic cheering crowds that had assembled on the beach to see him start. 
  Paddling out to a rock close to Tarifa lighthouse, known to be the extreme southern point of Europe, which he touched, then turned and waved an “adieu” to Spain. Starting his journey, paddling southward in smooth seas with calm weather, he was in excellent spirits, a
nd fully confident of success, as he continued paddleing southward, he expected to meet the current going eastward, that would carry him towards Malabata, being directly across from Tarifa. 
His calculations were off, as the current was now going in the opposite direction, westward as it gradually took him west.
  Shortly after eight o’clock in the morning, Paul singing as he paddled along and came very close to running into a school of porpoises, a couple of shots were fired into them from the felucca, scaring them off, it’s believed that sharks follow them. A few moments later another school appeared, again shots were fired, this time it was successful. Realizing the current was taking him too far west, he turned his course due south, with the rising winds, he attached a small square sail to his boot, this did not improve his performance as he had hoped.    After passing over Cabezes Shoals, the wind began picking up, he was still being carried westward, now nine thirty in the morning, Paul hauled up for a quick breakfast of bread and cheese. Paddling along, he once again became creative, by tieing a white square  handkerchief, to an eighteen foot cord from his belt , allowing the handkerchief to drift astern, this was another precaution against sharks, as it’s known, their malevolent impulses are more likely to be excited, as they attack white objects. The idea was that a shark attacking the handkerchief, would jerk the cord, that would then warn him of it’s presence, giving Paul time to prepare for the attack.   
   The wind increasing from the east, Paul again tried the sail, but found it ineffectual, still steering south towards Malabata Point, about nine miles from Tarifa, though paddl
ing all this time he was not tired. The westward current continued, the risk of being carried into the Atlantic became greater. He again turned his course southeast and fought to maintain it, as the British steamer Glenarn, eastward bound, passed him with loud cheers from the people on her deck.
   Two thirty in the afternoon, a strong wind, with a rapid eastward current, caused a high sea, causing Boyton to have difficulty keeping close to the boat, as his distance increased every moment, until he disappeared from her sight. The captain’s concerns grew, ordering the sailors to pull harder, about twenty minutes later he was sighted more than a half a mile ahead, as the sail was hoisted on the felucca they were able to close the gap,
  which was done with a lot of effort by the anxious crew. 
    The captain and crew of the boat, advised him to give up the attempt to cross, with their extensive experience of the straits, it is impossible, under the current conditions to complete the crossing. Boyton positively refused to give up the undertaking as he forged on ahead undeterred and in positive spirits, as the felucca soon discovered, it was impossible to keep up with him, with oars only. The boats sails were reefed and hoisted as the steering was close hauled, they were still barely able to keep him in sight.
    Three o’clock in the afternoon, Paul was half way across, keeping south south east, as the wind continued to increase, as did the danger of him being carried into the ocean. With the waves constantly breaking over him, and the salt encrusting on his eyebrows, his skin smarted from the irritation.  It was almost five o’clock and he was just off Boassa Point, bearing south, with only about three and a half miles from the African coast.  Making another attempt to use the sail, but the wind was too strong and he had to give it up.
   It began to grow darker as the wind increased with fears of a gale building up, the boisterous sea and wind in conjunction with rapid currents and heavy waves, caused the boat to loose sight of Paul. After cruising around in all directions and yelling at the top of their voices, the captain, crew and his friends were relieved to hear his distant response.  Finally catching up with him, the crew became adamant in their language, as they insisted he give it up, and come on board as they were all drifting into the Atlantic ocean. 
  Boyton however was firm and determined to keep going, until he reached the African coast, seeing no other way to stop him, three of the crew, leaned over the boat’s side and tried to drag him on board forcefully, this attempt annoyed Paul, as he stood up in the water glaring at them and threatened to attack any man with the sword blade who dareed to touch him again. The men took to their oars as Paul started singing, with the intention of calming down the situation as he paddled away.  Seven thirty, the felucca St. Augustine again lost sight of Paul, the current with the heavy waves, constantly caused him to go under as it washed over him, the boats crew, were having a rough time riding over the huge waves, as they again searched for any sight of Paul.  The current now going eastward to La Ballesta, he was again sighted after a lapse of twenty minutes, the increasing darkness and bad weather, was causing a lot of hard work for those on the boat, keeping up with him.
Continued Page 181 of the book.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

PERU September 29th 1893

Ship Arour - On Sea 21 st Febuary 1882

One day in October, while Paul was walking down Broadway Street 
in New  York, a gentleman tapped him on the shoulder. “You are Captain Boyton, I believe?”  
   “I have just returned from Europe, I have been looking for you. I have a message for you, from Don Nicholas de Pierola, I am an agent of the Peruvian government, it is not safe to talk here, there are Chillian spies in New York as well as in Lima. 
Meet me tonight at this address,”          Slipping a card in Paul's hand, the 
man hurriedly walked away.
   That night Paul went to the house on thirty-fourth street where he met the stranger, who immediately got down to business, stating that Don Nicholas de Pierola, wanted Boyton to leave for Peru at once, with his equipment and rubber suit, plus the torpedo cases, electrical appliances and everything necessary for the destruction of Chillian vessels of war. 
 It did not take Paul long to get all the necessary equipment needed and arrange the preliminaries. Before leaving a contract was drawn up, stating he was to enter the Peruvian torpedo service, with a commission of Captain. He was to receive one-hundred-thousand dollars for the first Chillian vessel destroyed and one-hundred-and-twenty-five-thousand dollars for the second, one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars for the third. Three vessels that were priority on the list, were the Huascar, Bianco Encalado and the Almirante Corcoran.      
   Next day as Paul was happily getting ready for this new adventure with the chance of making some good money out of it. 
  He was to go to Peru as Pablo Delaport a newspaper correspondent, receiving his passport and papers the following day. Telling his family that he was just going to take a short trip to Panama. Not wanting to upset or worry his beloved mother with the details of the dangerous task he was undertaking in Peru.
   On October the tenth 1882, accompanied by his assistant, George Kiefer, he embarked on the steamer Crescent City for Aspinwall, arriving there on the nineteenth, from there they crossed to Panama and had to waite for two days for the Columbia to take them south.
   A Chilian man-o-war, the Amazons, was anchored at Panama on lookout for a torpedo launch that was expected from New York. In his capacity as newspaper correspondent, Paul went on board the man-o-war to inspect her, with the idea that he might have an opportunity sometime to attach a one-hundred-and-fifty pound torpedo to her bottom . He was escorted through the vessel by the Captain and took copious notes of her construction and armament. As he was going-over the side into the boat to return to shore, an English engineer looked at him very carefully and remarked, “Your face seems familiar to me. Where have I seen you before?”
   Paul replied that he could not possibly tell as his duties lead him to all parts of the world, and hurriedly entered the boat. The next day they set sail and soon saw Dead Man’s Island at the mouth of Guayquil river. While on this second leg of his trip he was able to get another letter written to Elise.                                                                                                                   
   From some points the island bares a startling resemblance to a gigantic man afloat on his back, hence its name, they steamed up the river about sixty miles to Guayquil. The chattering of parrots and paroquettes along the shore was almost deafening as flocks would hover over the vessel for several minutes at a time and then fly back to the forest. Guayquil is one of the hottest towns on earth, though not one of the cleanest. The stench arising from the filthy streets is overpowering and, and fever flags fly from nearly every third or fourth house.
  The steamer lay in the middle of the river to discharge her cargo into lighters, passengers took advantage of the waite, taking a trip across to the city. 
 Once unloaded, now the twenty sixth of October, the  vessel went on it’s way to Paita, the first Peruvian port, Paul took a long walk on the beach and for the first time saw the curious blood red crabs that are in myriads along the shore, from a distance they look like big red waves, but as you approach they disappear in to holes in the sand, their behavior is simular to that of the hermit crab they are small, not edible, as quick as rats and as difficult to catch, there are countless thousands of them along the beach. 
   Chimbote was the main port in Peru, the steamer only anchored, long enough to take on mail as the port was then in the hands of the Chillians, they headed for Callao. Callao was also now in the hands of the Chillian Fleet who had blockaded the port, steamers were not permitted to land there. Just off the city the Columbiathey steamed through the blockaders, much to Paul’s concern, a little man on board had been asking Paul a lot of questions, especially what his interest was in Peru.  Trying as often as possible to avoid the man, as he was behaving suspiciously and could be a spy, fearing that he may be sending signal’s to one of the blockading vessels, Paul was forced to keep up a running conversation with him. 

From Chapter 11 of the book.."Roughing It In Rubber."

Friday, October 2, 2009


    Mr. PT Barnum.        

 An Extraordinary Aquatic
Act Underneath the Big Top.

One of the most unique ads fo
r a Barnum act was this odd but compelling "bird's eye view of a twisting river with adventurer Captain Paul Boyton popping up at different points.
Boyton spent years taming rivers, 
waterfalls, whirlpools - anything else that   was wet and dangerous.
    He navigated the Mississippi when it was filled with grinding ice. Abroard, he had been attacked by sharks in the Straits of Messina.
    He conquered the Tamaes, Rhine, the Danube, the Tiber, the Arno.                                                    
    All this in preperation for his tour with the great Barnum and London United Monster  Shows, for which  Barnum admitted paying Boyton a "princely salary" for an undertaking that would "severely tax even our enormous resources," the daily construction of a miniature lake (right) in which the Captain could revel in his rubber suit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coney Island

    When Paul Boyton arrived at Coney Island in 1895 he was already a famous world wide celebrity. 
In 1895 he bought 16 acres behind the Elephant Hotel in Chicago and opened his Sea Lion Park in time for Fourth of July. It was the first outdoor amusement park in the world, enclosed with a gate and charged admission - believe it was 5c.
  Sea Lion Park featured a broad lagoon, an old-mill water ride and a Shoot-the-Chutes ride. The later was an aquatic toboggan slide in flat bottomed boats that slid down a long steep slide into the lagoon. Boyton and inventor Thomas Polk designed an upcurve at the incline's lower end that launched the down-rushing boat into the air before it hit the surface of the water. The result was that it performed a series of hops and skips, each impact heaving the passengers from their seats then thumping them down again. It produced a thrilling climax for both its passengers and spectators. The boat was guided to a landing by a boatman on board, then pulled up the ramp by cable and turned around on a small turntable to be ready for the next complement of passengers who arrived at the top by elevator. 
  Paul Boyton's name was his own headline attraction where he also demonstrated his swimming skills in his rubber suit. There were forty sea lions trained to juggle and compete in water races. Boyton also promoted water races, in which the contestants wore pneumatic shoes he had invented, and aquatic ball games on water bicycles.  In subsequent years Paul Boyton added an old-mill water ride, a gee-way and cages of live wolves. After he built a large ballroom in 1899, the park increased in popularity. However, it was only modestly successful finacially since it failed to entice repeat customers with new attractions on a yearly basis. But it was the dismal rainy 1902 season when it was wet and cloudy nearly 70 days of the 92 day summer season that brought Boyton to near financial ruin. When Thompson and Dundy, the men who operated the "Trip to the Moon" ride at Steeplechase, approached him, he was eager to lease his property to them for a 25 year lease. 
  Know as Cap to friends and family he continued to live in the Brooklyn at Sheepshead Bay until his death on April 19, 1924.  A memorial plaque was placed at Luna Park in honor of his invention of the Shoot-the-Chutes ride. While he was also the first to enclose an amusement park at Coney Ilsand, he was always annoyed that people, especially newspaper reporters continued to mispell his name as Boynton instead of Boyton.