The Boldest 19th Century Dare Devils

Annie Edson Taylor / Henry Bellini / Charles Blondin

Contents: About the Collection | About the About Page | Tech

About the Collection

This collection is focused on displaying the boldest dare devils of the 19th century. The three main individuals chosen are Annie Edson Taylor, Henry Bellini, and Charles Blondin. Annie Edson Taylor was a 63-year-old woman who choose to barrel over the Falls. In the post card image, the description entails the date and drop which was October 24th, 1901, with a 165 feet way down that she was able to survive. In addition, Mrs. Taylor spent a total of an hour and fifteen minutes in the barrel, where she was than aided by many out of the Canadian shore approximately 600 yards from her starting point, below the falls. This incredible feat was important in ‘Dare Devil’ history as she was the first to survive a trip over the falls in a barrel and proved to many that it could be done. Also, Mrs. Taylor’s successful attempt clearly left a mark as Niagara Falls history will often include dare devils with her name being one of the first mentioned. This is evident in the postcard image released for the Niagara region as it details interesting places to visit in the area and includes an image of Mrs. Taylor next to the barrel. Other images in the collection show case the specific route her barrel took down the falls, Mrs. Taylor emerging from the shore with aid and a more refined image that is used countless times when discussing her story which is Mrs. Taylor photographed next to the barrel. The next dare devil that is photographed is Henry Bellini who tight roped his way across the falls in august of 1873 and was also the first to combine this stunt with a leap into the river. This was a nerve inducing stunt as it was done on his first tight rope walk but by adding an over 150 feet drop made the stunt deadly. Fortunately, the walk across and drop was successful as the two images collected depict the walk done with a 7m pole and the drop which had a boat ready near-by to pick him up. Another thrill seeker was Charles Blondin who also tight roped across the Niagara Falls. Included in the collection are images of a travel journal detailing one of Blondin’s stunts, a portrait of Blondin, and a couple that include him relaxing on the tight rope to him walking across on it. These are important images as it details the many stunts Blondin did, one of the more famous ones is when he walked across with Henry Colcord on his back. This was an amazing achievement as the balance needed to do this would have been immense although that did not appear to be an issue as one image shows Blondin sitting on the tightrope looking quite relaxed as he reads the morning paper. With these three main figures being known for a particular stunt they successfully completed; it is safe to say that they are the boldest dare devils in the Niagra region during the 19th century. The collection also includes some honorable mentions such as Hazlett and Sarah Allen, Signor Balleni and Martha Wagenfuhrer. Each completed similar stunts to Mrs. Taylor, Bellini and Blondin, either choosing to tightrope across the Falls or barrel down them. This showcases how impactful the dare devils were as they influenced others to complete similar feats. Furthermore, Niagara Falls was the place to be to complete all these amazing stunts and it is something that has stuck around in the history of the Niagara region.

Work Cited Cavendish, Richard. “Blondin’s First Tightrope-Walk Across Niagara Falls: June 30 1859.” History today 59, no. 6 (2009): 11–. Hudson, Roger. “Niagara by tightrope.(Charles Blondin’s Crossing of Niagara Falls in August 1859).” History today 62, no. 9 (2012): 36–. John Authers. “Long View: Daredevil Balancing Act for the World Economy.” (2009). MacDonald, Cheryl, and Ann (REVIEWER) Ketcheson. “Niagara Daredevils: Thrills and Spills Over Niagara Falls (Amazing Stories).” CM (Winnipeg) 11, no. 9 (2005). Wells, Tracy. “The Queen of the Mist: The Amazing Story of Annie Edson Taylor, the First Person to Go over Niagara Falls in a Barrel–and Live to Tell About It.” Plays (Boston) 72, no. 1 (2012): 31–.

Image List Citations

Curtis, George E. Photograph A - Henry Bellini, tightrope walker, prepares to cross the Falls. 1873. George E. Curtis Photographs of Niagara Falls collection, ca1860s-1870s RG 703, Brock Archives & Special Collections.

Dunlop, Orrin E. Niagara – The Scene of Perilous Feats. 1902. Niagara Falls/Niagara Power collection RG 86, Brock Archives & Special Collections. Unknown. Niagara Falls Special Attractions – Postcards. John Burtniak Postcard Collection RG 313, Brock Archives & Special Collections. Unknown. Niagara – Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Niagara Falls/Niagara Power collection RG 86, Brock Archives & Special Collections. Seymour, George Henry. Travel journal, 1855-1860. 1855-1860. George Henry Seymour fonds, 1855-1860 RG 662, Brock Archive & Special Collections.

Technical Credits - CollectionBuilder

This digital collection is built with CollectionBuilder, an open source tool for creating digital collection and exhibit websites that is developed by faculty librarians at the University of Idaho Library following the Lib-STATIC methodology.

This site is built using CollectionBuilder-gh which utilizes the static website generator Jekyll and GitHub Pages to build and host digital collections and exhibits.

More Information Available

Technical Specifications
IMLS Support