Total Pageviews

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Light Relief: High-Wire Act

The previous posting was all a bit grim.  Here, as yet another example of the way in which stoves entered into American culture by mid-century, is a report on a famous feat of derring-do:

"Blondin Crosses the Niagara River with a Cook-Stove, and Cooks an Omelet," New York Times 26 Aug. 1859, p. 8.

[from the Buffalo Express, 25 Aug.]  

The celebrated French trapeze artist Jean Fran├žois Gravelet-Blondin (1824-1897) had been working in the United States since 1855 as a circus artist and proprietor.  The stunt that really made him famous was staged at the Niagara River in the summer of 1859, when he crossed it several times on a rope 1100 feet long, 3¼ inches in diameter, and 160 feet above the water. To maintain public interest he put on a different performance each time -- crossing the rope blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope...  

On the occasion reported, he made his first crossing in manacles, "personating a slave," ["News of the Day," p. 4], which was "more of a curious and laughable spectacle than an exciting one," and then on his way back carried a small stove on which he cooked an omelet when he stopped in the middle of the gorge, and then lowered the finished item to attendants on the deck of the Maid of the Mistdown below.

[additional facts from, citing Blondin broadsheet for 1 August 1859, when he performed the chair feat in one direction, and stopped to take a stereostopic photograph on his way back -- -- the charge for watching the show was 25 cents, plus 2 cents for a reserved seat]

No comments:

Post a Comment