Blondon, Bay View, c. 1915 (In Honor of Barbara Erkkila)


I was sorry to learn about the death this week of Barbara Erkkila. A longtime journalist and historian, her 1980 book, Hammers on Stone: The History of Cape Ann Granite, is the definitive account of granite quarrying in Gloucester and Rockport.

Hammers on StoneHad I not read Barbara’s book, I might never have known what a “blondon” was, the contraption shown in this scene from one of the quarries in the Bay View section of Gloucester. A blondon was a cable running between two wooden (later metal) towers that was used to lift and move the big blocks of granite cut from the quarry. Here is Barbara’s description:

The moved those great stones by an aerial lift arrangement of cables between two wooden towers that they called a ‘blondin.’ The terms was evidently in honor of the French acrobat, Charles Blondin (real name Jean Francois Gravelet). The Frenchman had nonchalantly walked across a rope at Niagara Falls about 1860, stopping halfway to make an omelette on a stove he had brought along on his back. He lowered the cooked egg dish to the people on the Maid of the Mist tourist steamer far down below him. Then, picking up the stove once more, he continued on his way across the rope to the opposite side. Thousands watched him, their mouths open in disbelief.

Note that the postcard spelled it “blondon” and Barbara spelled it “blondin.” Searching both words online, I found an article about a quarry in England in the late 1800s and early 1900s that used blondon, with the “o.” But a Wikipedia entry uses the “blondin” version that Barbara used, also identifying tightrope walker Charles Blondin as the source of the name. It says that the first known use of blondins in the quarry industry was in Wales in 1913.

This postcard has no information on the reverse that identifies the publisher or date, except that it appears to be from before 1917.

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1 Response to Blondon, Bay View, c. 1915 (In Honor of Barbara Erkkila)

  1. Bob,
    I gave the eulogy at the Celebration of Life for Barbara, held this past friday, December 20th at the Lanesville Congregational Church. And I related the story Barbara had given me of her climbing up the Blondin at the age of ten.

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