How far would you go to try to make some money?
If you're Annie Edson Taylor of Bay City, you decide to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel!
113 years ago this month, on her 63rd birthday, Annie Edson Taylor became the first recorded person to go over the Falls and live to tell the tale.
Sherman Zavitz is the official historian for the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Zavitz says Taylor decided to go over the falls in a barrel as a way to make some quick cash. Taylor designed the barrel herself and it was built in Bay City, weighing 160 pounds and made of Kentucky white oak. An initial test run involved putting a cat in the barrel and sending it over the falls. Zavitz says while the barrel survived the plunge, there are conflicting reports on whether or not the cat did.
On October 24, 1901, Taylor’s birthday, she was finally ready to go over the falls after several postponements due to weather. Zavitz says about 1,000 people showed up to witness the stunt. After going over the falls, Taylor was temporarily stuck behind the curtain of water before shooting out and drifting over to a boat docking area on the Canadian side. Taylor had to be helped out of the barrel, as she was in a state of shock, but other than a cut on her forehead, she was unharmed. Asked what the experience was like, Taylor said, “I felt as if all nature had been annihilated.… I would never do it again.”
Ironically, Zavitz notes that Taylor never really made any money off her stunt, which had been the original purpose. Zavitz said Taylor had no stage presence and that many people thought she was silly or crazy and that, subsequently, they were not willing to spend money to see her. Zavitz says since Taylor went over the falls, 16 people have done the same, only 11 of them surviving.
*Listen to Sherman Zavitz discuss Annie Taylor’s stunt over the Falls above