Two postcards featuring Charles Blondin:
"unused circa 1910 J Sage & sons card Buffalo Evans photo

J Sage card Buffalo Evans photo 1864

"It's hard to believe, but the guy lived past 70 and died in bed. This was after a lifetime of flabbergasting, nauseating feats including: * crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope backward; * crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope blindfolded; * crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope at night; * crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope on stilts; * crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope with a passenger on his back; * dining at a table and chair balanced on a tightrope above Niagara Falls.

As a little boy, Jean Francois Gravelet ("Charles Blondin," in adulthood) was mesmerized by a circus tightrope walker in his hometown of Omer, France. He rigged a rope in his yard and began practicing, encouraged by his father. A gymnast, the elder Gravelet immediately sent the child to a gymnastics school in Lyons. He soon emerged as "The Little Wonder" and began his performing career. The year was 1829. The budding "Blondin" was 5. If there ever was a doubt showmanship would become his vocation, it was dispelled tragically four years later with the death of his father. He had to support himself. His gift of balance, combined with a flair for successful sensationalism, in time made him a very wealthy man.
Blondin first saw Niagara Falls while touring America with a circus troupe in 1858. The next year, circumventing formidable resistance by locals who disdained what they considered his belittling attitude toward their glorious spectacle, he became the first person to cross the abyss on a tightrope. He repeated the feat often, with astounding variations. Audiences were dumbfounded and sometimes physically sickened by the drama unfolding before their eyes—but they returned again and again.

The Prince of Wales, unnerved by a Blondin crossing, instructed him (futilely) to desist from such stunts forthwith. He had discovered his means to lasting international fame. For a time he settled near the falls with his wife and children. Even after he retired to England, he couldn't refuse exhibition offers from both sides of the Atlantic. His income during his heyday was almost half a million dollars annually. Blondin died of diabetes at 73 in Ealing, near London."