1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Blondin

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BLONDIN (1824-1897), French tight-rope walker and acrobat, was born at St Omer, France, on the 28th of February 1824. His real name was Jean François Gravelet. When five years old he was sent to the Ecole de Gymnasc at Lyons 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. He especially owed his celebrity and fortune to his idea of crossing Niagara Falls on a tight-rope, 1100 ft. long, 160 ft. above the water. This he accomplished, first in 1859, a number of times, always with different theatric variations: blindfold, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man on his back, sitting down midway while he made 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, 170 ft. from the ground. In 1862 he again gave a series of performances at the Crystal Palace, and elsewhere in England, and on the continent. After a period of retirement he reappeared in 1880, his final performance being given at Belfast in 1896. He died at Baling, London, on the 19th of February 1897.