I didn’t know until my colleague Louis Brewster’s column today in Sports that Hugo Zacchini, “a former Fontana resident, commonly is credited with being the first human cannonball.” The Peruvian native died in 1975. His father, Ildebrando Zacchini, is said to have invented the compressed-air cannon used to propel humans in circus acts.
Well, for what it’s worth, Wikipedia repeats the story. Brewster just passed by my desk and I asked him about it. When he was growing up in Fontana, all the kids knew about Hugo Zacchini, who kept a cannon in his backyard.
I don’t know how this ties in with Emanuel Zacchini Sr., who according to his 1993 New York Times obituary was brought to the U.S. from Italy in 1934 by John Ringling, created a human cannonball act with his brothers (none of whom were named Hugo) and set a record in 1940 by traveling 175 feet at 54 mph. He was subject of the song “The Human Cannonball” by Loudon Wainwright III.
Flyin’ Zacchinis must be as common as zucchinis.