The Flying Wallendas in the 1940 Census

by Amy Johnson Crow

Posted on June 25, 2013

If you watched Nik Wallenda's recent high-wire walk 1,500 feet above a Grand Canyon-area gorge, you probably heard references to his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda. Karl, the founder of the Flying Wallendas, died in a fall from a high-wire in Puerto Rico the year before Nik was born; Nik has credited Karl for being a source of inspiration.

It's hard for most of us to imagine life on a high-wire, but we can get a glimpse into the history of this acrobatic family in the 1940 census. Karl Wallenda, his wife Helen (also a high-wire performer), daughter Carla and several members of the extended family were living in Sarasota, Florida:

wallenda-1940-crop.jpgKarl Wallenda household, 1940 U.S. Census, Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida, ED 58-7A, sheet 8B.

Not many families have entries where "high wire performer" is listed as an occupation! From this entry, we can tell that Karl's step-father-in-law is the informant (the x in a circle) and that several members of the household were absent when the census was taken. Perhaps they were traveling for a performance.

The 1940 census is free on Take a look - maybe you have some high fliers in your family, too!

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