Boulder has been a unique place ever since its inception in the 1800s, and as such, it has boasted a myriad of people as unique as the city itself. Witness one (William) Ivy Baldwin: a daredevil, balloonist, and first to pilot a powered aircraft in Colorado.
Before Evel Knievel, way before Jackass, Ivy Baldwin ran away with the circus at age 12. It was there that he learned the two skills for which he was most renowned: tightrope walking and ballooning. He was in fact a balloonist not only for show, but also served in the Spanish-American War, where ha also worked in the Signal Corps, and once motorized airplanes were invented, he became an airplane pilot and also a parachutist of great skill. According to EarlyAviators.com, Baldwin performed more than 2800 parachute jumps from both planes and balloons (including a long-running act at Elitch Gardens). He even performed his balloon act for the Emperor of Japan in the 1890s.
But probably his most famous act of daring was his many high-wire-walking acts. One in particular, across Eldorado Canyon, he performed more than 80 times, the last of which he performed when he was in his 80s. The highest and longest tightrope walks of his time were performed by him, without a safety net. His most famous Eldorado Canyon walk was recorded as 582 feet high and 530 feet across (de Yoanna).
- Baldwin’s last tightrope walk was on his 82nd birthday, but not by his choice; his family insisted he stop. At 87, he still claimed he could do his Eldorado Canyon walk if he were given the opportunity (Pettem).
- The Emperor of Japan was so impressed with Baldwin’s act that he had a silk kimono made for him with a depiction of his act embroidered on it (Lam).
- In Baltimore, he was arrested for tightrope walking without a net. Since he never used a net for his walks, he improvised: he found a fishing net and laid it on the ground under his walk. What? The law didn’t specify it had to be suspended (Gaunt).
Photo Credit: Wikipedia