How Going Over Niagara Works

Annie Edson Taylor, 1901

The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was Annie Edson Taylor. Annie was a 63-year-old, retired school teacher and widow from Bay City, Michigan, who claimed she was only 43. The year was 1901. She thought that going over the Falls was the way to fame and fortune. She designed an airtight barrel (actually a modified pickle barrel) and hired a manager to publicize the event. On her birthday, October 24th, she climbed into the barrel with her cat and went over the falls with an audience of reporters and tourists watching. Having compressed the air in the barrel to 30 psi with a bicycle pump, she strapped herself in with pillows and an anvil for ballast. She survived the plunge.

She was pulled from her barrel 17 minutes after going over the Falls. Other than a concussion and a small cut on her head, she was deemed okay. The fame she sought was short-lived, however. She made money posing for pictures with her barrel, but efforts by her manager to convince her to make appearances in venues she deemed unworthy were always in vain. Her idea had been to travel around the country, speaking about her courageous journey, but that never materialized. Known as "The Heroine of Niagara Falls," she died 20 years later, penniless, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, NY.

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