This 63-Year-Old Teacher Was the First to Ride Niagara Falls in a Barrel

Photo Credit: Knightflyte/CC BY-SA 3.0

Are you thinking about your retirement?

They say it’s important, and even back in 1901, it was something people needed to think about.

I mean, that’s what Annie Edson Taylor, a retired school teacher, was thinking about when she decided to ride Niagara Falls in a barrel:

Photo Credit: did you know?

Sources: 1, 2

Taylor’s husband had died in the Civil War, and the New York native spent the rest of the century roaming the US and Mexico, picking up teaching gigs for a while before wandering off to another spot.

After she read an article about the World’s Fair and Niagara Falls, she decided to seek fame, fortune, and a secure retirement by riding over the Falls in a barrel.

People had been doing tight-rope walks over the Falls and shooting the rapids below the Falls in barrels, and at least one person had survived a dive from the top, but she would be the first to ride over the Falls in a barrel.

The barrel was specially made to go over the falls. It had a leather harness, an air hole with a rubber tube, a mattress, and pillows.

They even did a test run with the cat that you may have noticed peeking from the barrel in the publicity photo in the Fact Snack. Here’s the original:

Photo Credit: US LOC/Public Domain

As confident as she could be, on October 24, 1901, Taylor made her run.

She dipped in about a mile from the Falls.

Photo Credit: Public Domain/NFPL

It took about 20 minutes to reach the falls and another 20 after the plunge for the rescue boats to reach her.

She survived, of course:

Aside from a lot of those photos like you saw above, the stunt didn’t lead to lasting fame or fortune like she’d hoped.

But you can still visit her barrel in the lobby of the IMAX at Niagara Falls, or at least you could while they were playing the film about her. They rotate the schedule:

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