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 the colonies of British North America.

As part of his first official royal visit to Canada, he would watch “The Great Blondin” cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

According to a Sept. 15, 1860 New York Times dispatch to the Associated Press: “The Royal Party arrived here this evening. via the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railroad, and steamer Clifton, from Fort Erie. 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 Falls are illuminated with Bengal fires and blue-lights,” reads the dispatch. “To-morrow BLONDIN walks the rope.”

Following’s Blondin’s death-defying feat, Prince Edward was so impressed he gave Blondin $400. The two became good friends before Blondin’s death in 1897.

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

THE GREAT BLONDIN

Charles Blondin (born Jean Francois Gravelet) was a French acrobat who immigrated 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.

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

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