Death-Defying 40-ft Vertical Plunges: The High-Diving Horsewomen of Atlantic City

The daring ride of Mrs. Eunice (Winkless) Padfield, July 4th 1905
Image: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 4, 1905: Eunice Padfield and her horse stun spectators with a courageous amateur high dive.

Four thousand sets of eyes are fixed on Sonora Webster Carver. Dressed only in a bathing suit and cap, the young woman is casually waiting atop a platform 40 feet above a shallow-looking tank of water. But Carver is only half the reason why the surrounding crowd holds its collective breath; the other has a mane, answers to the name of Red Lips and is trotting up to the platform towards her. Carver hops nonchalantly onto the horse’s back, before Red Lips spectacularly leaps from the edge.

Steel Pier Horse Diving, Atlantic City
Image: via Red’s Design and Finds
The rider aims to prevent injury by keeping her “head tucked down to one side.”

The rider tucks her body into her steeds’ as they plunge heads first into the water below, sending waves cascading over the side. Moments later, they emerge from the 12-foot-deep pool to wild applause from the spectators – and a towel and blanket from their carnival show colleagues.

Welcome to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, where in the 1920s high-diving horses were the star attraction.