Speak about a challenging old broad. Annie Edson Taylor was the initial, and the oldest, individual to survive a tumble more than Niagara falls in a pillow-padded barrel of her personal style. At a time when girls have been anticipated to be docile, delicate and fragile, Annie Edson Taylor was a fearless, foolhardy badass.
The plucky 63-year-old widow and one particular-time charm college instructor crawled into a white oak barrel measuring just below 5 feet higher by 3 feet wide on an October afternoon in 1901 just before tumbling into the chaotic froth and churn of rocks and raging water in a quest for fame and fortune.
Lifelong thirst for adventure
Born one particular of 11 kids in 1838, she enjoyed a comfy childhood in New York’s Finger Lakes area. Descendants described her as obtaining a dreamy disposition, a lively imagination and a lifelong thirst for adventure. But it was a run of terrible luck that, in 1901, brought her to the precipice of Niagara Falls.
When functioning as a teacher, she met the man who would turn into her husband. Married at 17, she gave birth to a infant who died inside days. A lot more terrible luck followed when her husband reported for duty in the Civil War and by no means returned, leaving Taylor widowed at the age of 25 with just about no dollars to her name.
In dire economic straits, she took one particular job just after a different in an work to safe her future. Her travels took her from Michigan to Texas and Mexico City and back to Michigan — two desperate years spent pondering about how to make dollars honestly and speedily. It was through this time, as she mulled one particular get-wealthy-speedy scheme just after a different, she came smack up against the adventure she had normally sought.
Newspapers reported the story of how she was on a stage coach that was robbed by the Jessie James gang. Taylor emerged from that encounter with $800 sewn into the hem of her dress that went undetected. She also reportedly survived a home fire in Tennessee and an earthquake in South Carolina.
Back in Michigan, and just about broke, she taught the waltz, table manners and guidelines of etiquette to Saginaw’s kids. But as these kids grew up and went away, so did the earnings from Taylor’s charm college.
She would later inform a regional newspaper, “I had lost $8,000 some years ago in Chattanooga and my classes in dancing and physical culture did not bring in money fast enough to suit me, so I looked around for something that nobody had ever done before as a means to make some money. The idea of going over Niagara came to me in an instant and I studied the conditions fully before I embarked upon the trip, making the venture with every confidence that I would come out unharmed.”
Which is how a destitute, widowed, stout, graying, 63-year-old female college teacher came to take the ultimate plunge. But only just after she had shaved some 20 years off her age when speaking to reporters, claiming to be in her early 40s.
Into the barrel & more than the falls
When other individuals had challenged the falls in boats, on tightropes and, in one particular instance, by attempting to swim the Niagara just downriver from its treacherous falls, no one particular had dared go more than in a barrel. Taylor study about the big quantity of guests anticipated at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and saw an chance.
Her operate on the excellent barrel went from sketches and prototypes created out of cardboard and string to a regional enterprise that created beer kegs — but Taylor insisted on deciding on every single piece of wood herself. The outcome was an uneven, oblong barrel much less than 3 feet at its widest, and tapered at each ends. Fitted with a leather harness and cushions to guard her physique, it was secured with ten metal hoops and weighted with an anvil as ballast to hold it upright in the rapids.
The date was set for October 24, 1901, which was Annie Edson Taylor’s 63rd birthday. At just just after four PM, the Niagara River looked calmer than usual when she climbed into the barrel wearing an “abbreviated skirt” just after instructing the guys assisting her to stand a superior techniques back for the sake of decency — probably a throwback to her days teaching the guidelines of etiquette. The guys then packed the barrel with pillows to surround her. Air was pumped into the barrel applying a rubber hose and a bicycle pump Taylor figured she necessary about an hour’s worth of air, even though she fervently hoped her feat would take far much less time. The barrel was then sealed and towed toward Horseshoe Falls. After released, observers along the shores watched it bob up and down toward the precipice just before it disappeared from view.
In her memoir, Taylor recalled the barrel swooping down the rapids toward the edge, the roar of the falls expanding ever louder. Following a moment she described as total calm, she felt gravity take more than. Seconds later, she hit the surface under, sinking beneath the water. Water started seeping in as the barrel bounced and caromed off the rocks. Pretty much ten seconds later, it shot up to the surface of the churning foam, coming into complete view to cries and shouts from the crowds. When, about 17 minutes later it became lodged on a reef off the Canadian shore, a riverman hooked it with a boat pole and pulled it in just before a different gentleman helped saw the barrel’s leading off, exclaiming, “My God, she’s alive!”
Taylor, seasick and clutching a sodden pillow, was pulled to security with absolutely nothing much more than a modest reduce on her head and bruises on her physique.
‘Goddess of Water’
Her derring-do and miraculous survival have been celebrated with shouts of accomplishment the steamer Maid of the Mist blew her horn, and the Boston Globe wrote a couple of days later that she had achieved a feat “never attempted except in the deliberate commission of suicide.”
Annie Edson Taylor was even nicknamed the “Goddess of Water.” A poem was written in her honor, with these lines published by her descendants in a 1990 biography:
This wonderful heroine of our nation
has won each fortune and fame.
Now persons all more than creation
will praise this illustrious dame.
After protected, she complained only of soreness in her neck and shoulders. But her medical doctor prescribed strict bed rest and kept guests to a minimum, fearing she was suffering from “Brain Fever” — a Victorian malady marked by headache, flushed skin, delirium and sensitivity to light and sound triggered by emotional shock or excessive intellectual activity. When recuperating in bed, she received a letter with a proposal of marriage which she promptly turned down.
Fame, Fortune, Fraudsters
After Taylor was totally recovered, she penned a slim 1902 book titled “Over the Falls,” describing her outstanding stunt, which she later sold for 10¢ a copy at a “fancy goods and souvenir stand” close to the falls, along with miniature barrels and pictures of herself.
In the 1910s she returned to the falls to sell her memoir and attempt her luck at a handful of moneymaking suggestions that incorporated functioning as a clairvoyant and supplying “electric and magnetic” health-related remedies. She embarked on a couple of unsuccessful tours and posed for images at regional fairs. But the one particular factor she vowed by no means to do once more was take a different tumble, claiming, “I would rather face a cannon than go over the falls again.”
The fame she had so desperately sought proved fleeting. Sales of her memoir dwindled, along with her finances, and she fell into poverty. Even worse, she was cheated by fraudsters when her manager absconded with the barrel she intended to use as a prop for speaking engagements. What tiny dollars she had left was spent on unsuccessful attempts by private investigators to get it back. The dastardly manager is mentioned to have traveled all more than the nation with the barrel and a younger, much more eye-catching lady he passed off as Annie Edson Taylor, the Heroine of the Falls. Which was, probably, the ultimate indignity.
Obscure Death of a Daredevil
On March 20, 1921, regional papers reported Taylor was “an inmate” at the Niagara County Infirmary at Lockport, New York. Possessing extended attributed her ill overall health and close to-blindness to the horrors of plunging more than the falls 20 years earlier, she died in relative obscurity at the age of 82 in April of 1921. And even though she died in the exact same economic straits she identified herself in just before stepping into that barrel, Annie Edson Taylor will normally be remembered as the initial individual to take the tumble more than Niagara Falls and reside to inform her story.
Her funeral service was held on Could five, 1921 she was buried in a plot donated by the Oakwood Cemetery, close to the falls. A group of good friends and acquaintances contributed funds to erect a headstone subsequent to the website of her ultimate adventure and greatest achievement.
Sadly, Annie Edson Taylor by no means identified the fame she sought in life. So it is much more than a tiny ironic that, in death, her legacy lives on with a entire new audience. It turns out Oakwood Cemetery is now supplying each narrated-guided and self-guided “Daredevil Tours” in which Taylor is prominently featured at Quit #four.
Following her stunt, each New York and Canada enacted laws made to hold other individuals from following in the footsteps of Annie Edson Taylor. Needless to say, they didn’t cease people from attempting. Amongst 1901 and 1995, 15 persons went more than the falls only ten survived. Amongst them: Sam Patch, a.k.a. the “Yankee Leapster,” who, in 1829, jumped into the falls from a higher tower and Bobby Leach, a Cockney circus stuntman who survived the plunge in a custom-made metal barrel in 1911, only to die 15 years later when he slipped on an orange peel through a publicity tour, broke his leg and created gangrene — he survived the amputation, but died quickly thereafter.