Thar She Goes
October 24, 1901: Annie Edson Taylor celebrates her 63rd birthday. Annie Edson was born in Auburn, New York in 1838, one of eight children. Her father ran a successful flour mill and he died when Annie was 12 with the family able to live comfortably from his estate. Annie received an honors degree in a four-year training course and became a teacher. While in school, she met David Taylor and they were soon married. They had a son who died in infancy and just a short time later, David died too. Annie spent the rest of her life working odd jobs and moving around in the effort to support herself.
She eventually came to Bay City, Michigan and wanted to be a dance instructor. There were no dance schools so she opened one. In 1900 she moved to Sault Ste. Marie in order to teach music and then went to San Antonio, Texas and with a friend, went to Mexico City to find work. All these efforts were unsuccessful and so she returned to Bay City. Her need for income did not diminish and she desperately wished to stay out of the poorhouse. In order to make a splash and perhaps garner some income from tales of glory, she came up with a plan.
Annie had a special barrel constructed of oak and iron, it was padded with a mattress. She was going to go over Niagara Falls in the thing. She had difficulty in finding someone to help her launch the contraption as it was too dangerous and no one wished to align themselves with an apparent suicide. Two days before her own attempt, she placed a domestic cat in the barrel and sent it over the falls. The cat survived, albeit with a head wound. It had taken 17 minutes to retrieve the barrel and cat. Annie and the cat posed for a picture. On this day, the barrel was placed in the water on the American side near Goat Island. Annie climbed in bringing her lucky heart shaped pillow with her. The lid was screwed down and friends used a bicycle pump to compress the air in the barrel and then sealed the hole with a cork. Annie was set adrift.
The currents carried her away from the American side and over to the Canadian side and the Horseshoe Falls. She was plucked from the lower waters, relatively uninjured. She, too, had a small gash on her head. She was the first to survive going over the falls and after her trip, the Canadian side has been the site for all daredevil stunts. She was briefly famous and managed to make some money from appearances. Then her manager, Frank Russell, stole her barrel and most of her money and took off. The barrel was eventually found in Chicago and then it was lost completely. Annie’s final years were spent trying to earn enough money from her stunt to pay her bills. She died in 1921 at the age of 82 and is buried in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.
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. – Annie Edson Taylor
I’m not only the best-known daredevil on the face of the earth, I’m the oldest. – Evel Knievel
I don’t see the risk, I enjoy performing stunts, and I don’t get scared. – Ajay Devgan
The ads all call me fearless, but that’s just publicity. Anyone who thinks I’m not scared out of my mind whenever I do one of my stunts is crazier than I am. – Jackie Chan
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