Walking across the mighty Niagara Falls was a task few have ever considered, as the roaring water below is enough for anyone to stare in amazement and awe. However, Jean François Gravelet, better known as Blondin, was intrigued by the idea of crossing the falls on a tightrope and set out to become the first person to do so.
A small man, Blondin was distinguished by blue eyes and blonde hair (which had given him his nickname). Wiry and nimble, he had impressive coordination walking across tightwires because of his years in circuses and theatres. He first came to the Niagara area during the early part of summer in 1859 to earn a little extra money and had only come from France to the U.S. eight years earlier.
To prepare for the daring event of crossing the falls on a tightrope, he used a rope cable that was 1,300 feet long and two inches wide. On the American side of the falls, he secured the rope to a large oak tree and on the Canadian side, the rope was attached to a large rock. Although the rope was 1,300 feet long, only approximately 1,200 feet covered the gorge, with 50 of it being taken up by an inevitable sag in the centre.
Blondin set out to cross the falls on a tightrope on the morning of June 30, 1859, and thousands of people on both the Canadian and American sides gathered to see this great feat. It took him just 17.5 minutes to get from one end of the other, stopping halfway to drink some water raised to him by a rope from the deck of the Maid of the Mist.
Blondin completed several more trips to and from the American to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls on a tightrope, enhancing awe for his bravery each time by performing different stunts. For example, one time he crossed the length of the cable pushing a wheelbarrow, pausing in the middle to do a variety of stunts.
Even though many have completed similar feats over the years with equal skill, Blondin remains the reigning hero of Niagara. To this day, his bravery and skill live on, which makes us proud to craft quality spirits that help the area’s profound history continue.