Blondin was born at St Omer, Pas-de-Calais, France, His real name was Jean François Gravelet, and he was known alsoby the names Charles Blondin or Jean-François Blondin, or more simply The Great Blondin. When five years old he was sent to the École de Gymnase at Lyon and, after six months training as an acrobat,made his first public appearance as The Little Wonder. His superior skill and grace as well as the originality of the settings of his acts, made him a popular favorite.
Blondin went to the UnitedStates in 1855. He was engaged by William Niblo to perform with the Ravel troupe in New York City, and was subsequently part proprietor of a circus. He especially owed his celebrity and fortune to hisidea of crossing the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, 1100 feet long, 3 inches in diameter, and 160 feet above the water. This he accomplished, first on 30 June 1859, a number of times, alwayswith different theatric variations: blindfold, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man, on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelette.
In 1861, Blondinfirst appeared in London, at the Crystal Palace, turning somersaults on stilts on a rope stretched across the central transept, 70 feet from the ground. In 1862 he again gave a series of performances atthe Crystal Palace, and elsewhere in England, and on the continent.
In 1861 he performed at the Royal Portobello Gardens, on South Circular Road, Portobello, Dublin, on a rope 50 feet above theground. While he was performing the rope broke, which led to the scaffolding collapsing. He was not injured, but two workers who were on the scaffolding fell to their deaths. An investigation was held,and the broken rope examined. No blame was attributed at the time to either Blondin or his manager. However, the judge said that the rope manufacturer had a lot to answer for. The organizer of the...