Daily TWiP Archives

Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

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Daily TWiP – June 30, 1859: The Great Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope

Dressed in pink tights and a yellow tunic, world-class funambulist Jean-Francois Gravelet (better known as The Great Blondin due to his fair hair) became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope June 30, 1859. This extraordinary feat took him all of five minutes.

It was apparently a walk in the park for Blondin, as he made the crossing regularly over the next two years. He was quite the showman, giving each “ascension” (as they were billed in his advertisements) a different twist.

Blondin did several ascensions while blindfolded. Others were done on stilts, at night, while wearing a sack over his head that hung to his knees, or while pushing a wheelbarrow, as well as one where he stopped in the middle of the tightrope to cook and eat an omelet.

Thanks to Blondin’s innovation (and his powers of persuasion), his manager Harry Colcord became the first man to be carried piggy-back over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. This ascension was one of the most challenging, as Colcord weighed about as much as Blondin did and Blondin had to stop frequently to rest.

Colcord was reportedly terrified during the experience, but he didn’t use it as an excuse to quit. He remained Blondin’s manager and even gave show business a second chance when Blondin carried him across Niagara Falls’ Whirlpool Rapids in September of 1860 as a treat for the soon-to-be King Edward VII.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published June 30, 2009.

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