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The Stilt Walking Monsieur Dornon

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Sylvain Dornon (1858 - 1900) was a French baker and minor 19th century celebrity, who dedicated himself to preserving the ancient tradition of stilt walking practiced in the Landes region of France. He advocated stiltwalking as a means of recreation as well as competitive sport.

Sylvain Dornon: Stilt Walker

On August 4, 1889, Dornon put on a demonstration of stilt walking in a public park, in front of a large audience. One of the highlights of the performance was a dance on stilts by a group of stilt walkers, accompanied by rustic folk music. Building on this success, Dornon was invited to demonstrate his stilt walking skills by climbing the newly erected Eiffel Tower, during the World Fair of 1889. He was accompanied by a wild boar (because apparently a stair climbing man on stilts was not interesting enough) and managed to climb to the second floor of the Tower, about 114 feet high.

Buoyed by this success and the public's interest in this novelty, Dornon embarked on a new publicity stunt: he would walk on stilts from Paris to Moscow. His goal was to attend the Franco-Prussian Exhibition of 1891, which was held in Moscow.

Departure for Moscow

The newspapers covered his departure, and crowds came out to char him. Dornon kept up a brisk pace as he trekked eastward through France, Germany and Russia, mounted on 1.28 meter stilts. Despite bad weather, poor road conditions, and hostility from some rural villagers as he passed through their towns, Dornon arrived in Moscow just 58 days later.

His entry into Moscow was triumphant. Still mounted on stilts, Dornon entered the exhibition led by a cordon of Russian police men as the crowd cheered "Vive la France!". It was the pinnacle of his life; Dornon died just a few years later at the age of 42.

The Stilt Walker Leaving for Moscow

Walking on Stilts

Stilt Walkers

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