OTD: ‘The Great Blondin’ crosses Niagara Falls on tightrope

On today’s date in 1860, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), began touring British North America and the colonies, and as part of his first official royal visit to Canada, Edward watched “The Great Blondin” cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

Charles Blondin (born Jean Francois Gravelet) was a French acrobat who came to North America, where he was met with large crowds and fame for his incredible feats, which included tightrope walking. For his efforts, Blondin’s legacy is spread across Canadian, U.S. and European culture in the form of trade dollars, postcards and even street names.

This trade dollar, which had a mintage of 40,000 coins, featured the coat of arms of the city of Niagara Falls.

This trade dollar, which had a mintage of 40,000 coins, featured the coat of arms of the city of Niagara Falls.

In fact, The Great Blondin was featured on the reverse of the 1979 Niagara Falls trade dollar, which was struck in nickel and had a mintage of 40,000.

In 1860, after The Great Blondin’s death-defying feat, Prince Edward was so smitten he gave Blondin $400. The two became good friends before Blondin’s death in 1897.

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