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Blondin, Charles, 1824 - 1897



  • Existence: 28 February 1824 - 22 February 1897


Jean François Gravelet aka Charles Blondin was the most famous tightrope walker of all time.

Blondin was born in Hesdin, Pas-de-Calais, France in 1824. He started to train in gymnastics at the age of five and such was his natural skill that he became a child wonder and started to give performances soon after.

Blondin started to travel around America in 1855. Here he achieved international fame when he famously crossed the Niagara Gorge on the tightrope in 1859.

In the 1860s Blondin returned to Europe and started travelling around Britain performing in some of its most iconic locations including the Crystal Palace in London, The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and the Royal Portobello Gardens in Dublin. Blondin settled his permanent residence in London, from where he continued travelling around the UK and Europe. In 1873 he mimicked his Niagara triumph by crossing Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham.

Blondin performed many feats of dexterity on the tightrope during his career including crossing with a man on his back, rolling a wheelbarrow, blindfolded, in a sack, on stilts, sitting down halfway to cook and eat an omelette and on a bicycle, all of which was captured in the press of the day and multiple illustrations.

Between 1880 and 1896 after retiring from rope walking, Blondin starred in pantomimes in England and Ireland.

Blondin died at his house in Ealing, London, on 22 February 1897 aged 72.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Research Material, 1891 - 1935

Reference code: 178B30.37
Scope and Contents A large volume of typed and handwritten material referring to information published in newspapers and journals including the Strand Magazine, The Royal Magazine, McClure's Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Bookman, The World Magazine, Cassells's Magazine, American Magazine, The Toronto Star Weekly, Everybody's Magazine, Collier's Illustrated Weekly, St. Nicholas Magazine, Popular Science Monthly, Pearson's Magazine and Saturday Evening Post on animal training and other aspects of wild...
Dates: 1891 - 1935

Durrant's Press Cuttings, 1930 - 1955

Reference code: 178G21.98
Scope and Contents A collection of newspaper cuttings of circus articles mostly provided by Durrant's Press Cuttings from a range of sources including; North Mail and Newcastle Chronicle, News Chronicle, Cork Examiner, Empire News, Midland Daily Telegraph, Sunday Dispatch, Pearson's Weekly, Nottingham Evening Post, The Listener and other mainstream newspapers on a range of topics including Bertram Mills, wild animals, Pricilla Kayes, Koringa, The Hagenbecks, Blondin, Paulo Circus family, Togare, Grimaldi,...
Dates: 1930 - 1955

Monographs, Articles, Manuscripts and Research Material, c1795 - 1999

Reference code: 178B30
Scope and Contents

Compilation of monographs, articles, manuscripts and a range of research material about circus companies and performers in the United Kingdom, Europe and other parts of the world by various authors, the research was mainly compiled by Hal Thomas.

Dates: c1795 - 1999

Newspaper Cuttings and Scapbooks, 1838 - 2007

Reference code: 178G21
Scope and Contents

A collection of newspaper cuttings on circus, circus proprietors and performers and scrapbooks containing newspaper cuttings, posters, programmes and other items of ephemera, covering mainly British circuses and venues such as Belle Vue and also some international circuses.

Dates: 1838 - 2007