June 30, 1859 : Daredevil crosses Niagara Falls on tightrope

Introduction

Jean-Francois Gravelet, a Frenchman known professionally as Emile Blondin, becomes the first daredevil to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The feat, which was performed 160 feet above the Niagara gorge just down river from the Falls, was witnessed by some 5,000 spectators. Wearing pink tights and a yellow tunic, Blondin crossed a cable about two inches in diameter and 1,100-feet long with only a balancing pole to protect him from plunging into the dangerous rapids below.

It was the first in a series of famous Niagara tightrope walks performed by “The Great Blondin” from 1859 to 1860. These “ascensions,” as he advertised them, always had different theatrical variations, including doing tightrope walks blindfolded, in a sack, with his manager on his back, sitting down midway to cook an omelet, and pushing a wheelbarrow across while dressed as an ape. In 1861, he performed at the Crystal Palace in London, turning somersaults on stilts on a rope stretched 170 feet above the ground. He died in 1897.

Article Details:

June 30, 1859 : Daredevil crosses Niagara Falls on tightrope

  • Author

    History.com Staff

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2010

  • Title

    June 30, 1859 : Daredevil crosses Niagara Falls on tightrope

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/daredevil-crosses-niagara-falls-on-tightrope

  • Access Date

    November 20, 2017

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks