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In addition to the local news, WXPR Public Radio also likes to find stories that are outside the general news cycle... Listen below to stories about history, people, culture, art, and the environment in the Northwoods that go a little deeper than a traditional news story allows us to do. Here are all of the series we include in this podcast: Curious North, We Live Up Here, A Northwoods Moment in History, Field Notes, and Wildlife Matters.These features are also available as a podcast by searching "WXPR Local Features" wherever you get your podcasts.

Rhinelander’s Daredevil Dault: The Man Who Defied Death

Courtesy of Thomas Dault

An equilibrist is an acrobat who performs daring feats of uncanny balance.  This includes tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, tumblers, or any sort of skilled human balancing act.  A daredevil is a recklessly and often ostentatiously daring person.  When the two are combined you get Rhinelander’s own Daredevil Dault. 

Adelard and Victoria Dault moved to Rhinelander from Merrill around the turn of the century.  Their son, Albert Henry Dault, was born in Rhinelander in January 1902.  Albert was a fun-loving child who earned the nickname “Bolly.”  During his childhood, Bolly Dault was well known around Rhinelander and could often be found on Brown Street earning nickels from local shoppers as he performed handstands and other tumbling tricks.

As Bolly Dault got older, his tricks became more daring.  He began doing handstands on the backrest of kitchen chairs and on the tops of ladders.  In his late teens, Bolly Dault worked for a short time at the paper mill, refrigerator plant, and Thunder Lake mill.  He married Ruby Lee of Bessemer, Michigan, in 1921, but working as a laborer held no appeal for Dault.  Even as he started a family, Dault was barnstorming around small towns in Wisconsin and Michigan, performing feats of acrobatic skill for tips.

By 1921, he was going by the name of Daredevil Dault and began working on an early version of the stunt that came to define his career.  Taking a kitchen chair to the top of a tall building, he placed the back two legs of the chair on the edge of the cornice with the front two legs out over the street and then did a handstand atop the backrest.  He performed this stunt many times, including on top of Rhinelander’s old Merchant’s State Bank building in the mid-1920s.

Dault’s wife Ruby died in 1925, and shortly afterward he left Rhinelander and became a traveling performer.  He learned to climb buildings as a human fly, performed in circuses, headlined travelling vaudeville shows, and worked as a stuntman in Hollywood.

Throughout Dault’s travels across the country, it was his now perfected signature act that people came to see.  On the top edge of a tall building or other towering structure, Daredevil Dault stacked four tables, one on top of the other.  He then placed four bottles on the topmost table.  On top of the bottles, he balanced a kitchen chair, on top of which he placed a second chair.  Dault had to keep his balance as he built and climbed this rickety structure.  When all was done, he did a handstand on the backrest of the topmost chair.

In the summer of 1936, Dault made a triumphant return to Rhinelander and performed his signature stunt on the top edge of the Merchant’s State Bank building.  There was a high wind that day, and one of the support bottles slipped out and smashed to the ground below. Undaunted, Dault kept his balance and completed the stunt.

After the show Dault admitted that anywhere he went about half the people came in the expectation that he would fall.  He never did.

During the 1940s, Dault was a performer with USO shows in the South Pacific.  After the war he worked in the Roy Rogers shows and with Bob Hope, Milton Berle, and other celebrities.  He died in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1980.

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