10 Surprising Facts About The First Person To Survive Going Over Niagara Falls In A Barrel

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

By now we’re used to hearing about daredevils attempting dangerous stunts on landmarks like Niagara Falls.

Back at the turn of the 20th century, however, one brave woman made history as the first person to survive a trip down the rushing waters with just a wooden barrel to protect her: Annie Edson Taylor.

It was a phenomenal accomplishment, not only for the fact that she managed to make it out alive, but that she broke through the old-fashioned image of women being the “weaker sex” that most people subscribed to in 1901.

But you might be asking yourself: Why did she bother doing it in the first place?

Obviously, the spectacle drew plenty of attention, but she had more reasons for the historic stunt than most people realize.

Take a look to learn more about the first person to ever survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

And don’t forget to SHARE her incredible story with your friends on Facebook!

[H/T: The History Channel]

1. She Was A School Teacher

vintage classroom

Annie met her husband after taking a job as a teacher, but he unfortunately died while fighting in the Civil War. She then spent years traveling around the country and taking various teaching jobs, but ended up settling in Michigan with almost no money to her name.

After reading about “stunters” attempting to make it over the falls, Annie decided to give it a shot herself. She had hopes of earning enough fame and fortune to keep her financially secure, according to Niagara Falls’ official historian, Sherman Zavitz.

2. She Designed The Barrel Herself


The pickle barrel never actually held any pickles. It was five feet tall and a little over three feet in diameter, with cushions inside to prevent potential injuries.

Annie was also strapped in with a leather harness and weighed down by a 200-pound anvil at the bottom.

3. She Tested On Her Cat First

annie posing with barrel and cat

Before making the plunge herself, Annie’s cat became the first “Queen of the Mist” after she survived going over the falls mostly unscathed.

Annie posed for a photo with the surprisingly calm cat after the successful test, as you can see above.

4. She Lied About Her Age

annie in boat before her stunt

While drumming up publicity for the stunt, Annie claimed to be in her 40s.

In reality, she made the historic leap on her 63rd birthday: October 24, 1901.

5. The Whole Thing Took About 20 Minutes

annie emerging from barrel at niagara falls

Annie climbed into her barrel at 4:00 p.m. and was towed by a boat to the middle of the river before being cut loose.

Observers watched as the barrel bobbed through the water before disappearing in the mist as it fell. A few minutes later, she re-emerged and floated to a stop on a rock.

She only suffered a small cut to her head, which Sherman Zavitz claims might have happened while her handlers were helping her out of the barrel. Annie’s first words after the stunt: “I prayed every second I was in the barrel — except for a few seconds after the fall when I went unconscious.”

6. Her Manager Stole The Barrel

annie edson taylor with her barrel

While she was still recovering from the shock to her system, Annie discovered that her manager — who could have been charged with manslaughter if she didn’t survive — had run off with the barrel.

Having intended to use it as a prop for speaking engagements, Annie was understandably distraught. She hired private investigators to locate the stolen property, but never had any luck in finding it.

7. She Didn't Make A Fortune

vintage theater stage

Even without the barrel by her side, Annie enjoyed a small amount of fame following the event. She posed for photo ops and made speeches, but the sensationalism quickly fizzled and she found herself in financially dire straits once again.

8. They Made Laws To Prevent Future Stunts

niagara falls

In the years following her stunt, laws were put in place on both the New York and Canadian sides of the border to try and keep others from following in her daring footsteps.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from trying anyway — and facing heavy charges and fines if they survive.

9. She Inspired Several Copycats

bobby leach

In 1911, Bobby Leach became the second person to complete the task, using the steel barrel shown above.

Of the 15 people who made their own attempts over the falls in various contraptions between Annie’s successful leap in 1901 and 1995, only 10 managed to survive the dangerous stunt.

10. She Is Buried Near The Falls

annie edson taylor's grave

You can pay homage to the brave woman’s memory while visiting Niagara Falls at the nearby grave site. Annie was pretty much penniless when she died in 1921, but friends helped raise enough funds for a proper burial next to her greatest achievement.

Were you surprised by any of these facts about the “Queen of the Mist?”

Be sure to SHARE the fascinating info with your friends on Facebook!