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Niagara Falls 1911
October 24, 1901 : First barrel ride down Niagara Falls
On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie EdsonTaylor
becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls
in a barrel.
After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylormoved all
over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American
Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of twoenormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York andCanada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with theperfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in abarrel.
Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famousfalls. In October 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper,survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the NiagaraRiver, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later,Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She
claimed she was in her 40s, but genealogical records later showed shewas 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself intoa leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet highand three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to breakher fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of thefast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.
Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelledover the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if abit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief
flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor's fame cooled,and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. Shedid, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Amongthose who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matterthe method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors facecharges and stiff fines on either side of the border.