Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate daredevil Anna Edson Taylor who was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in wood barrel, on October 24th 1901.
Did you know Anna Edson Taylor was only 63 years old? When she did that stunt, but who was Anna Edson really?
Annie Edson Taylor was born on October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York. She was one of eight children; she became a schoolteacher (she received an honors degree in a four-year training course). During her studies she met David Taylor. They were married and had a son who died in infancy. Her husband died soon after. After she was widowed, she spent her working years in between jobs and locales.
Eventually, she ended up in Bay City, Michigan where she hoped to be a dance instructor. Since there were no dance schools in Bay City at that time, Taylor opened her own. Later she moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1900 to teach music. From Sault Ste. Marie she traveled to San Antonio, Texas where she and a friend got together and went to Mexico City to find work. Unsuccessful, she returned to Bay City.
Desiring to secure her later years financially, and avoid the poorhouse, she decided she would be the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her trip, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress.
On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Taylor climbed in, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow.
After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to compress the air in the barrel. The hole used for this was plugged with a cork, and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.
The Niagara River currents carried the barrel over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls.
Rescuers reached her barrel shortly after the plunge. Taylor was discovered to be alive and relatively uninjured, except for a small gash on her head.
The trip itself took less than twenty minutes, but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened. After the journey, Annie Taylor told the press: “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.”
She briefly earned money speaking about her experience, but was never able to build much wealth. Her manager, Frank M. Russell, ran away with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it. It was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.
She spent her final years posing for photographs with tourists at her souvenir stand, attempting to earn money from the New York Stock Exchange, briefly talking about taking a second plunge over the cataracts in 1906, attempting to write a novel, re-constructing her 1901 plunge on film (which was never seen), working as a clairvoyant, and providing magnetic therapeutic treatments to local residents.
Anna Edson Taylor died on April 29, 1921, aged 82, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, New York. She is interred in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York. She died of a disease called morphea.
Like that old saying goes you’re never too old to try something new, and what remarkable woman Anna Edson Taylor was, to go over the Niagara Falls inside a barrel. Now that’s a splash in history!
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell