Stuff You Missed In History Class
Today in 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a sixty-three-year-old teacher, became the first person to ever ride over Niagara Falls inside of a barrel.
The decision was motivated by a need for money. Taylor lived in Bay City, Michigan and learned about the Falls in a newspaper article. Her idea was born. It also wasn't really her idea - someone else had tried the same stunt over seventy years prior. His name was Sam Patch, and he survived a jump from the top of the Falls. He was not, however, in a barrel.
She used a wooden pickle barrel as her vessel. She was secured inside it with leather straps, and cushions were placed along its interior to soften the blows. A boat towed her into the river above the Falls and cut her loose. It was her birthday.
Twenty minutes later, she had survived a trip down the rapids and over the edge of Horseshoe Falls. It caused a short-lived flurry of media attention, which did not translate to the riches she desired.
Taylor spent much of her life's remainder trying to make money off her notoriety. She suffered a major blow when her manager eloped with her famous barrel. She emptied her pockets hiring people to track it down. They found it in Chicago, but it disappeared again.
She worked various odd jobs, including as a clairvoyant and magnet therapy practitioner, and posed for photos with tourists at Niagara Falls. She died at age 82.