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1930s & Earlier / Anna Taylor Niagara Falls Daredevil
On October 24, 1901, Anna Edson Taylor became the first person to plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel and live to tell about it. The 43-year-old school teacher from Bay City, Michigan had no credentials as a daredevil. Anna could not even swim! She dreamed up the scheme merely as a money-making ploy. She rode in a 160-pound oak barrel. It was only 4-1/2 feet long and just 4 feet in diameter at its widest point. The barrel contained a 100-pound anvil that served as ballast to keep it upright in the water. A crude pump supplied Anna with air. Cushions fastened with leather straps were intended to keep Anna from getting hurt. Seven iron hoops were all that held the barrel together. The stunt was well publicized and several thousand people were on hand to view the event. They watched the barrel descend down the 167-foot waterfall. (It took three seconds.) It remained submerged at the bottom for another 10 seconds. When the barrel was hauled out of the water, Anna emerged bruised and bleeding from a slight cut behind her right ear. She was babbling incoherently for a few moments, but she had survived. Anna attempted to cash in on her achievement with public speaking engagements. However, from all accounts, she spoke in a boring, emotionless, raspy monotone that put audiences to sleep. Furthermore, she stupidly got rid of the barrel--a rather important prop that would have added immensely to her dull lecture. For years afterwards Anna eked out a meager living selling autographs in Niagara Falls beside a facsimile barrel. She died in 1921.