For 30 years before World War I, fierce-eyed, mustachioed "Professor" Ivy Baldwin was as famous as many a king. He was a tiny man (5 ft. 3 in., 112 Ibs.), but he had a fine sense of balance and a vast contempt for death. He toured the world making balloon ascensions and parachute jumps. He dived into nets from incredible heights. He walked high wires with the ease and insouciance of a fly.

In 1907, at the height of his fame, he went to Eldorado Springs, Colo, to walk a steel cable which a resort owner, Frank Fowler, had...

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