Jean Francois Gravelet (aka The Great Blondin)

One of Niagara’s most famous daredevil’s came thirty years after the great Sam Patch. Jean Francois Gravelet, better known as the Great Blondin, was the first man to walk across the great gorge, some 160 feet above the lower rapids.

On June 30, 1859, Blondin successfully crossed the falls on a three-inch manila rope stretching from the American side of the falls to the Canadian, a total span of 2000 feet. It took him 20 minutes to cross above the Niagara River on what would be the first of 8 crossings. Twenty five thousand onlookers would come to Niagara Falls to watch this amazing feat and Blondin did not disappoint. Always a showman halfway across the rope he calmly sat down, and then proceeded to lay down on his back and rest his pole across his chest before resuming his crossing. He then proceeded to walk the rest of the way to the Canadian shore, however he would perform a back somersault to the amazement and shock of the crowd, before finishing his amazing feat.

On a subsequent crossing Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow containing a small stove made of sheet iron across the gorge. To the delight of onlookers he then proceeded to light a fire and cook an omelette while suspended on the rope, he lowered the omelette down to passengers on the Maid of the Mist who ate it before Blondin continued his crossing. He even went across the gorge while tied up in a sack, his arms and legs shackled, with only his hands exposed. On one of his crossings he brought with him a chair which he stood upright on. However, one of his most famous feats involved his manager Harry Colcord. During the summer of 1859 Blondin crossed the gorge several times, with Colcord on his back, an amazing feat considering Colcord weighed only 5 pounds lighter than the amazing Blondin.

Blondin was considered one of the greatest tight rope walkers of his time, he died at the age of 73 in his home in England, which he named after the place he so much loved Niagara.