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

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