On today’s date in 1860, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) began touring the colonies of British North America.
As part of his first official royal visit to Canada, he watched “The Great Blondin” cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
“The Royal Party arrived here this evening via the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railroad, and steamer Clifton, from Fort Erie,” reads a Sept. 15, 1860, New York Times dispatch to the Associated Press.
“At Brantford the party lunched at the Kirby House, the Prince receiving addresses, &c. A large number of Indians also assembled, and made various warlike presents to the Prince. Crowds assembled at all the stations. Upon arriving at Chippewa huge bonfires were lighted, and a torchlight procession escorted the royal carriages to the Falls, where the Prince stops, at Clifton Lodge, the residence of the late Mr. ZIMMERMANN.”
The dispatch adds: “The Falls are illuminated with Bengal fires and blue-lights. To-morrow BLONDIN walks the rope.”
Following’s Blondin’s death-defying feat, Prince Edward was so impressed he gave Blondin $400.
The duo became good friends before Blondin’s death in 1897.
THE GREAT BLONDIN
Born Jean Francois Gravelet, Charles Blondin was a French acrobat who immigrated to North America, where he was met with large crowds and fame for his incredible feats, including 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.
In fact, the Great Blondin was featured on the reverse of a 1979 Niagara Falls trade dollar, which was struck in nickel with a mintage of 40,000 pieces.