In 1881, when William F. ‘Doc’ Carver and his trusty stead dived off a collapsing bridge into a river below them a seed of an idea was planted that would soon grow into one of America’s most popular tourist attractions of the day: horse diving. How far Carver and his horse fell exactly is unknown. What is known is after that event horse diving, under Carver’s direction, took the United States by storm as it made the rounds across the country at state fairs and carnivals. After Carver’s passing his family moved the act to a more permanent location at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, where it remained for 50 years. Jumping from heights as high as 60 feet (18 meters), the horses and the young ladies aboard them were the rockstars of their day. Injuries were fairly common for the riders, including one who claimed she broke at least one bone every year she rode. Another went blind after she and her horse fell unexpectedly off the diving board and she hit the water with her eyes open. After dwindling attendance and increased pressure from animal rights activists, horse diving became a thing of the past in Atlantic City in 1978.
Animal cruelty had a different definition 100 years ago, as the immensely popular horse diving act of the day definitely proves.