Talk about a Birthday Bash! The First Person to go Over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

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A Brief History

On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first confirmed person to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel on her 63rd birthday!

Digging Deeper

Annie Edson Taylor was born on October 24, 1838.  She worked as a school teacher before traveling around searching for other employment opportunities.  In her later life, the future “Queen of the Mist” eventually decided to become the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, earning her a ranking of seventh on a list of “Top 10 Daredevils“.

Annie Taylor posing next to her barrel

To prepare for her short journey, she designed a special oak and iron barrel with a mattress on the inside.  Before attempting the descent herself, a domestic cat had the first honors of testing the barrel.  The cat survived, although it suffered some head injuries.

“The Queen of the Mist” posing with her barrel and cat.

With the cat’s success, Taylor would be next to brave the falls.  She set out on a rowboat, from which she then climbed into the barrel at the side of the small boat.  Her friends pumped in air using a bicycle pump and then sealed the hole they pumped the air in with a cork.  Currents in the Niagara River carried her barrel from south of Goat Island to the Horseshoe Falls.  After a less than twenty minute trip, she survived, although like the cat before her had a minor bloody head wound.  Her account of the stunt is as follows: “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.”

To the detriment of various others, her warning would not be heeded.  While several adventurers would indeed successfully follow in her footsteps, others would perish attempting the same or similar feats.  With good reason, it is currently illegal to even attempt to go over the falls in a barrel or other contraption.

Question for students (and subscribers): Would you ever go over Niagara Falls in a barrel if you could do so?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information on The Queen of the Mist, please see this site as well as the book Queen of the Mist: The Forgotten Heroine of Niagara.


About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.