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October 24th, First Person to go Over Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Getty Images, photo by Ableimages

On October 24, 1901 is the date the first person plunged over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Her name was Annie Edison Taylor, a 63 year old schoolteacher whose husband died in the Civil War. Annie claimed at the time she was in her 40’s and wanted to go over the falls on her birthday but it was later discovered she was actually 63 when she rode the falls. She first heard about the falls while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and realized there was a growing interest in these two giant waterfalls in upstate New York. Taylor was seeking fortune and fame from her ride but after initial interest, her fame dissipated and she never made the fortune she had hoped for.

Taylor used a wooden pickle barrel that was five feet high and three feet in diameter with leather harness straps inside. There were cushions lining the barrel to break her fall and she was strapped in and taken to the middle of the Niagara River, towed by a small boat, and cut loose. It took about twenty minutes for her to float down the river, plunge over Horseshoe Falls and reach shore. As she emerged from the barrel she was a bit battered and bruised but all-in-all in good shape.  For a while she had photo-ops and interviews but her fame cooled quickly. Taylor did inspire others to try the daring feat and between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls, 10 survived, 5 died. Don’t get any ideas about going over Niagara Falls on either side of the border; the United States and Canada have made it illegal to go over the falls with stiff fines and charges facing you, if you survive.

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