sidebar menu icon


Vandervoort Loop Performance
Picture, Vandervoort performs his loop-the-loop act in front of a large audience circa 1905. Picture courtesy of the Library of Congress. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Newspaper Article on Vandervoort Loop Performance
In 1902, a newspaper article in the Cook County Herald described the Vandervoort loop performance at Coney Island. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

VANDERVOORT, ROBERT B. (1869–1906). Robert B. Vandervoort, stuntman, was born in 1869 in Corpus Christi. Brought up by his widowed mother, Ellen Sims, and her husband, Richard J. Shirley, Vandervoort was known as a daredevil even as a child. He reportedly walked a 500-foot slack wire over a part of Corpus Christi Bay when he was still a boy, in order to humiliate the professional performer and the promoter who had arranged the show. He worked for a time with his stepfather in the construction of sheet-metal cisterns in Corpus Christi, and instructed himself in the fundamental principles of electricity. In 1891, Vandervoort moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as an electrician. He married Mary E. Brennan there in 1900. After watching Joseph Mack, who was the first to attempt a loop-the-loop in Madison Square Garden September 8, 1901, Vandervoort set to work trying to accomplish the feat without bodily harm. Mack broke his leg in his attempt to do a complete circle. Vandervoort helped build a loop-the-loop forty feet in diameter at Sea Beach Palace at Coney Island. H. L. Stewart made an attempt to do the loop-the-loop there on October 16, 1901. He was successful the first time, but could not repeat the accomplishment. Vandervoort decided to give it a try. To make the runway more visible, he painted a black line down the middle. He depended entirely on coasting down the slope, keeping to the middle of the path marked by a black stripe. With practice, he found he could do the loop-the-loop every time needed. Vandervoort chose the stage name "Diavolo" and demonstrated the feat numbers of times. He made a tour of Europe, had a fourteen-week engagement in Berlin, and had a command performance before King Edward VII on May 3, 1903, in London. His career was brought to a tragic end on November 20, 1906, when a railway car in which he was sleeping overturned near Rome, New York.


Corpus Christi Caller, January 3, 1902, November 9, 1906.

Frank Wagner

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Frank Wagner, "Vandervoort, Robert B.," accessed January 20, 2018,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 17, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.