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Ivy Baldwin

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Ivy Baldwin walking on a tightrope across South Boulder Creek.
Ivy Baldwin

Balloonist William “Ivy” Baldwin was the first American aviator to be shot down in wartime – in 1898, during the Spanish-American War.

He was also a tightrope walker who balanced his way high above the roaring waters of South Boulder Creek dozens of times. Clad in white, with a 26-foot pole for balance, Baldwin crossed the creek on a wire suspended nearly 600 feet high. It was perilous. Once, a strong gust of wind forced him to hang from his knees for more than an hour. And there were other close calls.

But nothing could deter Ivy Baldwin, who decided to walk the tightrope on his 82nd birthday. LIFE magazine photographed the 1948 event, his last tightrope walk, as Ivy Baldwin finally gave in to family demands to retire from his lifelong “urge to get into the air, one way or the other.” Fitting for the first inductee to the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.

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Colorado Postcards are snapshots of our colorful state in sound. They give brief insights into our people and places, our flora and fauna, and our past and present, from every corner of Colorado.