Sig. Farini’s Ascension across Niagara River.
William Leonard Hunt, otherwise known as the Great Farini, was born in Lockport, New York. He was a long time rival of The Great Blondin, although he never reached the same fame level as Blondin. Hunt claimed, at the age of 22, that he could perform the same feat as Blondin, by crossing the gorge.
During the summer of 1859, Hunt was offered $100 to perform at a local fair in Port Hope. Hunt demanded $500 on the condition that he would stand on his head, while on the rope, above the Ganaraska River. He walked back and forth across the river without a balancing pole. In addition, he stood on his head, did somersaults and walked blind folded as he had promised. William Hunt changed his name to Signor Guillermo Antonio Farini. He would quickly become known as “The Great Farini”.
Farini’s first performance at Niagara Falls occurred on August 15th 1860. Farini began the tightrope walk while carrying a balancing pole and an additional coil of rope strapped to his back. When he reached the mid-point, Farini tied the pole to the tightrope and lowered himself to the deck of the Maid of the Mist, 61 metres below, where he drank a glass of wine before climbing back to the tightrope above. The task of climbing was much more demanding and he nearly fell on several occasions. After making it to the other side and a brief ten minute rest, Farini made the return by crossing blindfolding and wearing baskets on his feet.
In the weeks that followed, Farini matched or surpassed each of Blondin’s previous performances. He did this by balancing himself on his head, hanging from the tightrope by only his toes and by carrying a person on his back. When Blondin took out a stove on the tightrope and cooked an omelette, Farini carried a washtub out on the tightrope and lowered a bucket to the river below to retrieve water in order to wash handkerchiefs.
On August 8th 1864, Farini returned to Niagara Falls to perform yet another death defying feat. He planned to walk to the brink of the Falls on specially made stilts. The problem arose when one of the stilts he was wearing was caught in a crevice in the riverbed causing it to break. Farini made it to Robinson Island where was rescued. After this disaster Farini left Niagara Falls defeated and deflated.