From the Niagara Falls Review:
James Hardy has a special place in the history of Niagara Falls.
He was the final official participant in a 19th century phenomenon often referred to as the great age of Niagara tightrope artists — something that captured much of the world’s attention.
That “age” began in 1859 when the innovative showman Jean Francois Gravelet, who used the stage name Blondin, demonstrated unbelievable skill and daring on a rope during a series of performances high over the Niagara River Gorge.
Widely acclaimed, he set a precedent. Consequently, during the years following Blondin a number of other high-wire artists came here to present similar shows.
Thirty-seven years after Blondin, it was Hardy’s turn.
The Citizen in Fayetteville, GA has an article about Felix Baumgartner (the guy who jumped from almost outer space). The beginning of the article is about Blondin (a daredevil tie-in).
In the 1800s, an acrobat named Blondin became famous for walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope numerous times. One day, a crowd gathered to watch him push a wheelbarrow carrying a sack of cement across the tightrope. With that extra weight, the slightest miscalculation could tip the wheelbarrow and send him plummeting into the falls.
Thousands watched breathlessly as he carefully placed one foot in front of the other and slowly made his way across the rope. When he reached the other side, the crowd broke into cheers.
A reporter approached Blondin to congratulate him, and Blondin asked, “Do you believe I can do anything on a tightrope?”
From the Leavenworth Times:
Niagara Falls is world famous for romantic escapes and dare devil feats. Several people have gone over the falls in barrels surviving “certain death” while a few perished.
Nik Wallenda will walk across the falls in June 2012, the first to attempt this feat since “The Great Blondin” 150 years ago.
Wallenda, of the famous Flying Wallenda Family, will walk over this incredibly power waterfall on a two-inch steel cable. There are many who have fell over the falls without a barrel, only a couple survived.
The danger of this stretch is millions of gallons of water falling down a big cliff to create immense pressure that crashes bodies into large rocks and boulders. This dangerous fact is exactly what makes the Niagara River a fisherman’s paradise. The conditions are rough, but rewards are great in big lake trout and trophy small-mouth bass.
On June 30 I posted about one of Blondin’s trips across the gorge. The Nashua Telegraph has some more detailed information (more than the blurb I put below):
Dressed in pink tights and a yellow tunic, world-class funambulist Jean-Francois Gravelet (better known as The Great Blondin due to his fair hair) became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope today in 1859. This extraordinary feat took him all of five minutes.
According to the Minneapolis – St. Paul Star Tribune, on this day in 1859…
French acrobat Charles Blondin (born Jean Francois Gravelet) walked back and forth on a tightrope above the gorge of Niagara Falls as thousands of spectators watched.