Stuntmen of the early 20th century lived hard and played hard. They may have been slightly crazy, but they helped prove anything is possible.

The saying goes that a picture says a thousand words. Looking at photos of amateur and professional daredevils from the black and white era of photography, one has to wonder how many variations of the word “wow” are in existence to describe the thrilling scenes on display.

For some stunt performers, it was about man and machine. From almost the moment they were available to the general public, cars became a key fixture for some stunt troupes. Throw in names like “Hell Drivers” and “Death Dodgers” and of course the masses ate it up. Motorcycles were also a fixture, with even the British Army getting in on the action starting in 1927 with their White Helmets display team. Until their disbandment in 2017, the White Helmets spent 90 years performing to large crowds, often being seen by more than one million people annually.

Stunts weren’t always about engines and burning rubber on concrete. The argument can be made that Niagara Falls is nature’s gift to tightrope walkers. The first to take on the challenge, Jean François Gravelet (aka the Great Blondin) walked over the Falls on a rope in 1859. Walking can be boring though, so Gravelet kept returning to Niagara with added tricks to keep spectators interested. Watching someone cook an omelet in a kitchen is kind of boring. Cook that omelet while precariously perched over Niagara Falls? Different story completely.

Story by Jay Moon