Saturday, June 02, 2012

Walking Niagara Falls

I had the opportunity to do something today that I haven't done in quite a long time. We went to a couple antique shoppes today. Lo and Behold I found this very nice stereo card of Signorina Maria Spelterini crossing the Niagara Rapids. I knew there was a website for Niagara Falls daredevils and their histories so I went there to see what I could find as this woman has baskets on her feet.

I would love to ask Herbie Weber, did you know about this?

Signorina Maria Spelterini became the first woman to ever cross the Niagara River gorge on a tight rope.

Spelterini was a 23 year old buxom 150 pound beautiful woman of Italian descent. She made her debut on July 8th 1876 performing a successful crossing using two and a quarter inch wire located just North of the lower suspension bridge ( presently the Whirlpool Bridge). Maria Spelterini soon proved herself equal to those tight rope walkers that preceded her.

On July 12th 1876, Spelterini crossed wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet. On July 19th 1876, she crossed blind folded. On July 22nd 1876, Spelterini crossed with her ankles and wrists manacled.

On July 26th 1876, Maria Spelterini made a farewell crossing. She never performed any more in Niagara Falls. Her personal life remains a mystery. The date and place of her death are unknown.

July 1, 1876

A Lady to Cross the River on a Single Rope

The great sensation of the present day in the amusement world is the projected trip across Niagara River of a young lady, lately arrived from Europe, and known as the Signorina Maria Spelterini. This young artiste arrived in New York about two months ago, and has since been quietly making preparations to accomplish the feat that gave Blondin a world wide reputation.

During her stay in the city the Spelterini gave two representations at Jones' Wood, and perform feats on the high rope 100 feet above the ground that at once convinced the spectators of her perfect right to cucomiums, she has received from the European press.

Some well-known managers who were present at her initial performance freely express the opinion that she excelled in grace and daring any artiste that has ever visited this country. A Herald reporter paid Miss Spelterini a visit yesterday afternoon, and in the course of a conversation learned the following facts:

She was born Livorno, Italy and made her first appearance in public with her father's company when she was three years of age. She performed until she reached the age of 10 upon the tight rope and then commenced the slack-wire and the rolling globe. In the two last acts, she achieved a brilliant success, performing for two years in Berlin and Vienna.

In 1871, she went to Russia had made such a great success upon the high rope that she adopted that branch of her profession entirely and gave it her sole attention. She is gifted with wonderful nerve, combined with cool daring, and during her entire career, she never made a single mistake, although on several occasions, she was only saved from accident by great presence of mind.

In 1873, when performing in Surrey Gardens, London, on the day the Alexandria Palace was destroyed by fire, she was standing on a platform waiting to commence her act when the rope broke. The shock threw down the pole on the other end. The one supporting the platform on which she stood rocked violently as her assistant was jumping about and about to throw himself off, but she caught him by the hair of his head and made him stand still until assistance was brought, and they both landed on terra firma safe and sound.

On one occasion, when performing at night in Jersey at the height of 125 feet over the Bay, a violent thunderstorm arose, frightening everybody in the vicinity, but she went through her performance with the lightning flashing all around her and never for a moment lost her presence of mind. Last year, at Oporto Portugal, she was advertised to carry a boy across on her back, a distance of 200 feet, about 80 feet from the ground. The boy disappointed her, and she carried her brother across, a gentleman weighing 170 pounds.

Speaking of Niagara, the Spelterini does not regard the feet as anything at all extraordinary, as walking across the river does not display the artistes nerve half as much as the different performances that she proposes to give on the rope. If sufficient strain can be got on the rope so as to stretch it tolerably straight. She will be able to give her entire repertoire and, in any case, if the rope can be properly guyed she will perform some 10 or 12 different acts.

The rope is now being manufactured in the city, and when completed, will measure 1000 feet and weigh 1,700 pounds. It will require 1,000 pounds of guys to keep it fairly steady. The rope will be stretched across the Niagara Rapids about 200 feet below the Rail Road Suspension Bridge and 800 feet on each bank of the river will be enclosed and arranged with scats for the accommodation of spectators. The Erie, New York Central, Great Western, Canada Southern, and other roads will run trains at excursion rates to accommodate the visitors anxious to pay a visit to the falls and see a woman crossed the Rapids on a rope, a feat never before attempted.

The first performance will be given on July 1, Dominion day at 4 PM and the second at the same hour on July 4, in honour to the Centennial celebration.

Signorina Spelterini and her brother left last night for the International Hotel, where she will remain during her stay at Niagara Falls.

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