This Day in History – October 24th, 1901

Annie Edson Taylor had work as a teacher and later as a dance instructor, but in her sixties this widow was facing financial hardship and the prospect of the poorhouse, so what was her solution to this predicament? Simple . . . she decided she would be the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel!

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On October 24th, 1901, her 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Taylor climbed in, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow. After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to compress the air in the barrel. The hole used for this was plugged with a cork, and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.

The Niagara River currents carried the barrel toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls. Rescuers reached her barrel shortly after the plunge. Taylor was discovered to be alive and relatively uninjured, except for a small gash on her head. The trip itself took less than twenty minutes, but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened. After the journey, Annie Taylor told the press, “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.”

Following the stunt Taylor scraped together a living giving talks, posing for pictures at her souvenir stand, attempted a novel and a movie about the 1901 fall, proposed a second plunge over the cataracts in 1906, worked as a clairvoyant, and provided magnetic therapeutic treatments.

After her 1901 plunge, Taylor lived for another 19 and a half years and at the age of 82 died on April 29, 1921. She is interred in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

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