Annie Edson Taylor was born October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York.
Her father owned a flour mill, and even though he passed away when she was only 12 years old, the money he left behind allowed her mother and her seven brothers and sisters live a comfortable life.
Annie became a schoolteacher and married David Taylor with whom she had a son that died in infancy. Her husband died soon after.
After she was widowed, she spent her working years traveling between different locales.
Eventually, Annie 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, she opened her own.
Later in 1900, Annie moved to Sault Ste. Marie 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, Annie decided to become the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and survive.
Annie Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her plunge over the falls, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress.
Several delays occurred in the launching of her barrel, particularly because no one wanted to be part of a potential suicide.
Two days before Annie’s own attempt, a domestic cat was sent over Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength.
Contrary to rumors at the time, the cat survived the plunge and 17 minutes later, after the cat was found with a bleeding head, Annie posed with the cat for photographs.
Then on October 24, 1901, Annie’s 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Annie climbed in, along with a 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 then plugged with a cork, and Annie Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.
The Niagara River currents carried the barrel toward the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls.
Rescuers reached Annie’s barrel shortly after the plunge.
She 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.”
Annie went on to briefly earn money speaking about her experience, but was never able to build much wealth.
Her manager, Frank M. Russell, fled with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it.
The actual barrel was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.
Annie 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.
Annie Taylor died on April 29, 1921, at the age of 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.
Now WE know em