TIGHT ROPE WALKER LESSONS
This newspaper item found in the Washington Evening Star of Washington, D. C. ,
Wednesday October 31, 1888, evidently copied from Lippincott's Magazine and was written by
Jean Francois Gravelet, also known as “The Great Blondin” the tight rope walker of the day.
Charles Blondin , born Jean Francois Gravelet, 28 February 1824, in the town Saint Omer,
Pas de Calis, France.
He tells the world that a tight rope walker is born, not made. At the age four he began to
toddle along a rope and by age eight he gave an exhibition in Turin where the king was in the audience.
The usual method of learning to walk the rope is to begin with walking a narrow board, decreasing the width until it is no thicker than an ordinary rope. Posturing and gracefulness are
taught during these lessons.
The rope is formed of a flexible core of steel wire, covered with the best Manilla hemp.
The diameter is about one and three quarters inches. The rope several hundred yards in length is coiled at each end on windlasses which are turned until the rope is taut. It is in error that rope
walkers feet are exceptionally large and muscular, mine are rather below the average size.
The balancing pole is an apparatus, mine is of Ash , exactly 26 feet in length, weighs
50 pounds and is in three section so it can be transported with ease.
Blondin said he is never nervous when walking the rope. I look ahead some 18 or 20 feet,
either whistle or hum as humor may catch him. Also I stay in step with the band music and find
that helps preserving my balance. One of the chief difficulties in balance is the considerable sagging of the rope under the 200 pounds bearing on it. He preferred to perform in open air, saying the air in a structure, at the height the rope must be, can be unpleasant to breath.
Blondin never took any stimulant before 'walking the rope' and avoids eating too heavy a
meal. He does not like to have the safety net as he feels it could lead to the accident it is used to prevent.
Charles Blondin Jean Francois Gravelet was three time married, the first wife, married after the birth of a son, Arnold Lepold, was Marie Blacherre and by his second wife he had two daughters
Adele and Iris and a son Edward .
He is buried in Kensel Green Cemetery, London, England.