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Funambulist - Jean Francois Gravelot (The Great Blondin)

On June 30, 1859, at 5 pm, Blondin made his first journey across the Falls. Blondin utilized a 1,300 foot long, 3 inch diameter manila rope stretched from what is now Prospect Park in Niagara Falls, New York to what is now Oakes Garden in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He began his first walk from the American side and completed his crossing in 20 minutes using a thirty-foot long balancing pole that weighed 40 pounds. At midpoint, he stopped, dropped a bottle tied with a piece of twine into the Maid of the Mist tourist boat below, hauled up some Niagara River water, drank it, and resumed his journey. He arrived on the far bank triumphant. He rested briefly, accepted a glass of champagne, performed a little dance on the rope, and walked back across in just eight minutes.

For two summers, Blondin performed above the Niagara. During his subsequent performances, he crossed the Falls on a bicycle, on stilts, and at night. He swung by one arm, turned somersaults, and stood on his head on a chair. He pushed a stove in a wheelbarrow and cooked an omelet and on one occasion, crossed blindfold in a heavy sack made of blankets. His greatest feat was to carry his agent, Harry Colcord on his back across the falls. At his last Niagara Falls performance, September 8th 1860, he sat a table balanced on the tightrope, ate cake and drank champagne.

In 1897, at the age of 73, he died at his home.

(Maisah Robinson, Ph.D., May 4, 2006)

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