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If you are so lucky as to visit Niagara Falls this summer, imagine a tightrope 3 inches wide, stretched for 2000 feet across the spectacular great gorge. While outlawed today, tight-rope walking across the falls used to be a popular entertainment in past centuries.
On June 30 1859, Jean-Francois Gravelet, better known as The Great Blondin, was the first man to walk across the Niagara gorge, some 160 feet above the lower rapids. It took him 20 minutes to cross the 2000 foot span, as 25,000 onlookers watched. 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. When he reached the Canadian shore, he performed a back somersault before coming down from the rope. This would be the first of eight crossings.
The next time, Blondin pushed a wheelbarrow containing a small stove across the gorge. To the delight of onlookers, he lit a fire and cooked anomelette while suspended on the rope! then he lowered the omelette down to passengers on the Maid of the Mist who ate it before Blondin continued his crossing. On another crossing, he brought with him a chair, on which he stood upright. However, one of his most famous feats involved his manager Harry Colcord. During the summer of 1859 Blondin crossed the gorge several times, carrying Colcord on his back, an amazing feat considering Colcord weighed only 5 pounds less 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 loved so much: Niagara.
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