Saturday, April 30, 2005

the priestly inventor of the bullet-proof vest

Did you know that the inventor of the first usable bullet proof vest was a Roman Catholic priest? Well now you do. I didn't until I heard recently this report from NPR. His name was Rev. Casimir Zeglen of St. Stanislaus' Church in Chicago which used to be the largest Polish church in the country. Apparently Father Zeglen was so distraught over the assassination of then-mayor Carter Harrison in 1893 that he made it his mission to invent a vest that would deflect bullets.

After the mayor's assassination, a trend for designing the most effective bullet proof vest began, and Father Zeglen came up with the most workable one.

But what blew my socks off was learning about an announcement made in the newspaper Brooklyn Eagle on Oct. 9, 1902 announcing that Zeglen's invention was going to be tested. Navy Yard officers and militia officers were invited. The article reads:

"C.W. Ryder, who is exhibiting the armor cloth in Brooklyn, has arranged for a test in the Montauk Theater building next Tuesday at 3:30 P.M…[And get this] Dr. Ashley A. Webber, who is known as one of the greatest marksmen in the country, will fire the shots. Mr. Ryder has made an offer of $500 reward if Dr. Webber succeeds in penetrating the fabric. It is expected that the Rev. Mr. Zeglen will be present in person to wear the vest."

I suppose if you invented something yourself and tell people it works, you ought to be willing to prove it yourself. But three cheers for Zeglen! With historical figures like him, I am so proud that I will soon be part of the presbyterate.

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