Maria Spelterini

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Maria Spelterini crossing the Niagara gorge on a tightrope

Maria Spelterini (sometimes spelled Spelterina and occasionally referred to as Marie, July 7, 1853 – October 19, 1912) was an Italian tightrope walker who was the only woman to cross the Niagara gorge on a tightrope, which she did on July 8, 1876 as part of a celebration of the U.S. Centennial. She used two and a quarter inch wire and crossed just north of the lower suspension bridge. She crossed again on July 12, 1876, this time wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet. She crossed blindfolded on July 19, and on July 22 she crossed with her ankles and wrists manacled. She was described as a buxom, 150 pound beautiful woman and was famous for wearing outrageous costumes.

She had previously toured Europe, performing at Moscow (crossing the Moskva River), St. Petersburg (crossing the River Neva), Saint Aubin on the Island of Jersey (August, 1872), and Catalan (24 August 1873). In a May 5, 1877 performance in Rosario, Argentina she survived a fall while riding a velocipede (bicycle) that malfunctioned on a wire.

An article appeared in the French newspaper L'Univers Illustré in October, 1873, showing her crossing the harbour at Saint Aubin, Jersey and her portrait.

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