Annie Edson Taylor: The First Person to Survive Trip Over Niagara Falls in a Barrel in 1901

Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921) was an American adventurer who, on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Desiring to secure her later years financially, and avoid the poorhouse, she decided she would be the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her trip, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress.

Several delays occurred in the launching of the barrel, particularly because no one wanted to be part of a potential suicide. 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 Falls.”

She briefly earned money speaking about her experience but was never able to build much wealth. She wrote a memoir and returned to Niagara Falls to sell it. Her manager, Frank M. Russell, ran away with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it. It was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.

She spent her final years posing for photographs with tourists at her souvenir stand, attempting to earn money from the New York Stock Exchange, briefly talking about taking a second plunge over the cataracts in 1906, attempting to write a novel, re-constructing her 1901 plunge on film (which was never seen), working as a clairvoyant, and providing magnetic therapeutic treatments to local residents.

Taylor died on April 29, 1921, aged 82, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, New York, and was interred next to English-born daredevil Carlisle D. Graham (1850–1909) in the “Stunter’s Rest” section of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York. Her funeral was held on the 5th of May, 1921. She attributed her bad health and near blindness to her trip over the falls.

(via Niagara Falls Public Library)

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