Monsieur Blondin! The Most Famous Tightrope Dancer in the World


Most likely used as a poster, this 1860 broadside mounted on wall paper advertises the show of the famous French tightrope walker Monsieur Blondin. Jean-Francois Gravelet (1824–97), also known as Charles Blondin or the Great Blondin, was born in France. By the age of five he was able to walk on a rope stretched between two kitchen chairs. He repeated his tight roping feats for the next 70 years, taking more and more risks, until his death in London in 1897. Blondin became a household name in Canada when, on June 30, 1859, he crossed over Niagara Falls, walking on a 390-meter manila hemp rope five centimeters in diameter. The crossing took 15 minutes. It was during his time in North America that Blondin put on shows such as the one advertised here. It is also possible that this poster could have been promoting a show by one of his many imitators. Quebec city's Salle Musicale (music hall), founded in 1851 by Louis Panet (1794−1884) and his associates, was designed by Quebec architect Charles Baillairgé (1827−1906). The building was destroyed by fire in 1900. Monsieur Wheeler was its concierge and, according to the flyer, 25 cents would reserve seats for the performance. The text advertising the show is accompanied by a simple, yet expressive woodcut representing the acrobat doing his jump on stilts.

Last updated: August 27, 2015