Grateful American® Foundation

Who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope today?

June 30th

Blondin_Crossing_the_NiagaraJune 30, 1859 — Charles Blondin became the first man to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope today. Gamblers took bets on whether he would plunge to a watery death. (Most of the smart money said yes.)

Blondin believed that a ropewalker was “like a poet, born and not made,” and discovered his calling at the age of four, mounting a rope strung between two chairs placed a few feet apart.

In Smithsonian magazine, reporter Karen Abbott shares the details, explaining: “On the morning of June 30, about 25,000 thrill-seekers arrived by train and steamer and dispersed on the American or Canadian side of the falls, the latter said to have the better view. Both banks grew “fairly black” with swarms of spectators, among them statesmen, judges, clerics, generals, members of Congress, capitalists, artists, newspaper editors, professors, debutantes, salesmen and hucksters. Vendors hawked everything from lemonade to whiskey, and Colcord gave tours to the press, explaining the logistics of what the Great Blondin was about to attempt.”

Words of Wisdom

He was more like a fantastic sprite than a human being. Had he lived a century or two earlier he would have been treated as one possessed of a devil. He could walk the rope as a bird cleaves to air.

— Harry Colcord, June 30, 1859, manger of Charles Blondin, the first man to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

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