Blondin, aka Jean Francois Gravelet, made a speciality of crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope 1,100 feet long. He did it straight, blindfolded, in a sack, wheeling a wheelbarrow, sitting down mid-way to make and eat an omelette, on stilts watched by the Prince of Wales, and once with his manager on his back.
After his first crossing, one paper reported: ‘Thus was successfully accomplished one of the most daring and useless feats that even this fast age has ever witnessed’.
In 1861, Blondin pushed his five-year-old daughter in a wheelbarrow across a tightrope 180ft above the concrete floor of the Crystal Palace. The Home Secretary intervened and persuaded him to cook omelettes and turn somersaults instead. However, this wasn't sensational enough for Liverpool; when he appeared there he reverted to the wheelbarrow-pushing act, but this time with a lion strapped into the barrow.
Blondin died in bed of diabetes, aged 73.
In 1876, Maria Spelterini tightrope walked across Niagara Gorge, from the US to Canada, with her feet in peach baskets.
Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the Channel, died attempting to swim across the Niagara Falls Whirlpool Rapids in 1883.
The secret for reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously.
Niagara Falls used to erode by 3ft a year. Since being used for hydroelectric power, this has fallen to 1ft in 10 years.
Annie Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, survived the experience in 1901.
The second, Bobby Leach, survived the fall and died some years later in New Zealand, of gangrene caused by injuries resulting from slipping on an orange peel.
Charles Stephens, a 58-year-old father of 11 from Bristol, lost his life performing the jump in 1920; only his tattooed right arm (‘Forget Me Not Annie’) was found in the remains of the barrel. He had strapped his feet to an anvil he was using as a ballast, which shot straight through the bottom of the barrel when it hit the water and his body was never recovered. The arm was buried in a local cemetery.
Of the 16 known barrel-drops, 6 have died. You reach a speed of 352.8km per hour by the time you get to the bottom.
In December 1874 some entrepreneurs bought an old schooner (the Michigan), decorated it to look like a pirate ship, loaded it up with a bison, three bears, two foxes, a raccoon, a dog, a cat and four geese - a sort of Noah's Ark in reverse - and set it loose in the rapids. 10,000 people watched as it was swept over the falls and smashed to smithereens, only two of the geese survived. Two of the bears jumped ship and were shot - for cowardice, we suppose.
Real-life daredevils include:
George 'Human Fly' Willig, who climbed the World Trade Center in 1977 using clamping devices that fitted the tracks used by window-washing devices.
'Spider Dan' Goodwin who climbed the Chicago Sears Tower in 1981 using suction caps.
Alain 'Spider Man' Robert who has climbed 70 or so of the world's tallest structures using no tools or safety devices at all. In 1997 he got to the 60th floor of Kuala Lumpur’s 88-floor Petronas Tower before being arrested.
Jules Léotard is the man about whom the song 'The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze' was written.
He developed the art of the trapeze. He was born in Toulouse in 1838, the son of a gymnastics instructor and would practice his routines over a swimming pool.
The costume he invented was a one-piece knitted garment streamlined to suit the safety and agility of a trapeze performance. It also showed off his physique and impressed the ladies The outfit wasn't called by his name till after his death, he called it a maillot.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out just how far one can go.
Jon Weiss of Barnum and Bailey's circus was a human cannonball about 5,500 times from 1988-2003.