Tightrope Walker Jean Francois Gravelet, the great Blondin,
was the first of many tightrope walkers to appear at Niagara
Falls. He was a professional artist and showman trained in the
great tradition of the European circus. At age 31 he came to
America and made the announcement that he would cross the gorge
of the Niagara River on a tightrope .
On June 30, 1859 the rope was in position and at five o'clock
in the afternoon Blondin started the trip that was to make history.
Incredulous watchers saw him lower a rope to the Maid of the
Mist, pull up a bottle and sit down while he refreshed himself.
He began his ascent toward the Canadian shore, paused, steadied
the balancing pole and suddenly executed a back somersault. Never
content merely to repeat his last performance, Blondin crossed
his rope on a bicycle walked blindfolded, pushed a wheelbarrow,
cooked an omelet in the centre and made the trip with his hands
and feet manacled .
Yet even these stunts failed to satisfy Blondin's urge to test
himself. He announced that on August 19 he would cross the gorge
carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back. It was to be
the supreme test of Blondin's skill and stamina . According to
Colcord, the trip was a nightmare. In the unguyed centre section,
the pair swayed violently. Blondin was fighting for his life.
He broke into a desperate run to reach the first guy rope. When
he reached it and steadied himself, the guy broke. Once more
the pair swayed alarmingly as Blondin again ran for the next
guy. When they reached it Blondin gasped for Colcord to get down.
Six times in all Colcord had to dismount while Blondin struggled
to gather his strength. In the end Blondin had to charge the
crowd on the brink to prevent the press of people forcing them
back in the precipice.
The Great Blondin had done it again, but this time he had only
just made it.
He died in England at the age of 73.
find out moore about Blondin at The Blondin Memorial Trust