The First Barrel Ride Down Niagara Falls – 10/24/1901

US History |

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While many would say that there is a first time for everything, this should not always be the case. Although young individuals may take this as a form of a badge of honor, the majority of adults would lean towards the side of caution. However, this obviously was not the case for 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor who on October 24th, 1901 went to Niagara Falls and became the first person in history to plunge over the falls in a barrel.

Taylor was born in New York and after her husband died tragically in the Civil War, she traveled around the U.S. until about 1898 where the decision was made to finally settle in Bay City, Michigan. Three years later, Annie was reading an article in July about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo when she noted the big-time interest of two huge waterfalls that rest on the boarder of upstate New York and Canada. Wanting to seek fame and desperate for money, she came up with the sure fire stunt that would get the most attention: Taylor would climb inside a barrel and go over Niagara Falls!

What is interesting to know is that Annie was not the original individual to attempt taking a jump over the popular falls. Sam Patch, nick-named the Yankee Leaper, decided to jump down in October of 1829 the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River and actually was found to have survived on the Canadian part of the border. Now, over 70 years later, Annie made the choice to go through with her idea on her October 24th birthday.

Actually, she stated her age was in the 40s but in reality was 63 which was later proved through genealogical records. Many may think she just got inside a barrel on her own and jumped over the falls but they would be seriously mistaken. Instead, Taylor had the help of two assistants in strapping herself into a leather harness inside a used wooden pickle barrel that was three feet in diameter and five feet high. She had put cushions in the lining of the barrel in order to break her fall and protect her from serious injury. Instead of simply hurling herself over the falls, Annie had a small boat tow her into the center of the quick-flowing Niagara River and finally cut her loose. 

Taylor was knocked viciously from side to side by the rapids and then powered over the edge of Horseshoe Falls. Eventually, she made it to shore alive, although somewhat battered, roughly twenty minutes after she jumped. Annie was able to land some speaking engagements as well as some photo-ops; however, her fame began to fade and the fortune she had dreamed to make turned out to be unrealistic. Yet, Taylor’s experience did inspire some daredevils to attempt to copy-cat her plunge over the falls. Fifteen people attempted to go over the falls between 1901 and 1995 but only ten of them survived. Two of the five people who perished were Robert Overcracker who used a jet ski in his attempt in 1995 and Jesse Sharp who used a kayak in his plunge in 1990. Anyone who may consider trying this should understand that jumping over Niagara Falls is against the law and survivors face stiff fines as well as charges whichever side of the border you are found on.

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Mike Sexton

Chief Editor

I have always had a passion for writing since a young age and can still remember the first time a teacher assigned us to create our own newspaper it was my favorite project. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper and loved learning about new topics. I knew I found my new passion and as soon as I stepped foot on UCLA my mind was made up. Since getting my degree I have done all types of writing and love the freedom it gives me to work from anywhere. I hope you all love my writing as I am excited to produce quality articles each day for you!