Daredevils have risked their lives to accomplish dangerous and seemingly impossible feats for many different reasons. Many wish to find fame and fortune. From the beginning of the twentieth century to today, daredevils have tried to cheat death and the wraith of Mother Nature by tackling the rapids and falls that comprise Niagara Falls.
At the age of sixty-three, Annie Edson Taylor became the first woman to challenge Niagara Falls and the first to do so in a barrel. On her birthday, October 24, 1901, the widow and schoolteacher rode her barrel over the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the falls. A Civil War widow, she hoped that this stunt would bring her fame and fortune.
Taylor’s barrel was 22 inches in diameter at the head, 34 inches in the middle and 15 inches at the foot. Made with white Kentucky Oak, the barrel was four and a half feet long and weighed the same as Taylor – 160 pounds. At the bottom of the barrel, a 100-200 pound anvil was place for stability. The inside was padded with a small mattress and she was harnessed into it. Once in, the air pressure was compressed to 30 p.s.i with a bike pump.
At 4:05 p.m., Taylor went over the Falls. It took 35 minutes for rescuers to get close enough to the barrel to cut it open. Inside they found Taylor with cuts and bruises but no major injuries. Upon climbing out she muttered, “nobody ought ever do that again.”
While Taylor received her initial goal of fame and was dubbed “Queen of the Mist,” it was only fleeting. She died in poverty on April 29, 1921. However, she inspired other daredevils to take the ‘fall.’ Some of which were not as lucky as Annie and perished in their attempt.
Annie Edson Taylor: Daredevil One
Daredevils of Niagara Falls
Marvin Kusmierz, “Anna Edson Taylor (1839-1921): Bay City Teacher was First Person to go over Niagara Falls,” Bay-Journal, Feb., 2003