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Charles Blondin


Jean François Gravelet-Blondin (28 February 1824 – 19 February 1897), French tight-rope walker and acrobat, was born at St Omer, France.

His real name was Jean-François Gravelet, and was known also by the names Charles Blondin or Jean-François Blondin, or more simply “The Great Blondin”. When five years old he was sent to the École de Gymnase at Lyon and, after six months training as an acrobat, made his first public appearance as "The Little Wonder". His superior skill and grace as well as the originality of the settings of his acts, made him a popular favourite.

Blondin especially owed his celebrity and fortune to his idea of crossing the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, 1100 feet (335 m) long, 160 feet (50 m) above the water. This he accomplished, first on June 30, 1859, a number of times, always with different theatric variations: blindfold, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelette.

In 1861, Blondin first appeared in London, at the Crystal Palace, turning somersaults on stilts on a rope stretched across the central transept, 70 feet (20 m) from the ground. In 1862 he again gave a series of performances at the Crystal Palace, and elsewhere in England, and on the continent.

On 6 September 1873, Blondin crossed Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham[1]. A statue built in 1992 on the nearby Ladywood Middleway marks his feat.

After a period of retirement Blondin reappeared in 1880, his final performance being in Belfast in 1896. He is said to have died of diabetes in Ealing, London at the age of 72 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery[2], although there were rumours following his death of his abdicating to a quiet life under the nom de plume of Julio DeMasi.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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