The most famous of Niagara’s daredevils was Jean Francois Gravelot; better know as “The Great Blondin”. He was born February 28th 1824 in St. Omer, Pas de Calais in Northern France.
Blondin first came to Niagara in early 1858 and instantly became obsessed with crossing the Niagara River on a tightrope. On June 30 1859, Blondin successfully walked across the river on a tight rope. During the summer of 1859, he completed eight additional crossings. His most difficult crossing occurred on August 14 when he carried his manager Harry Colcord on his back.
For the crossing, Blondin used a 335 metre long with an 8 centimetre diameter manila rope. The rope stretched from the current site of Prospect Park in Niagara Falls, New York to the current site of Oakes Garden in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He began on the American side and completed his crossing in 20 minutes. Blondin used a 40 pound, 9 metre long balancing pole.
During the summer of 1860, Blondin returned to Niagara for a second successful year of tight rope walking across the Niagara River for hundreds of thousands of sightseers. One of his acts included pushing a wheelbarrow along as he crossed. On September 8th 1860, Blondin completed his final tight rope crossing of the Niagara River. Others followed in the absence of Blondin but none was more daring or famous.