Do you know any 63-year-olds? If so, ask them how they celebrated their birthday this year. Maybe it was dinner at a nice restaurant or a visit with the grandkids, but I can guarantee that no 63-year-old you know spent his or her birthday literally barreling over Niagara Falls, right? On our recent visit to the Falls, I became fascinated by the stories of people attempting the drop, but the most amazing one is the first to survive: on this day 117 years ago, A. Taylor was sealed by some friends into a customized pickle barrel, dropped into the river and sent over Horseshoe Falls.
If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls, (especially if it’s been since one of the big rock slides on the American side in 1931 and 1954) you realize that Horseshoe Falls is of course where, were you crazy enough to attempt it anyway, you’d make your bid. Taylor was originally planning to tumble over the American Falls but the current took the barrel over Horseshoe instead, which was perhaps fortuitous, and is where all subsequent attempts have taken place.
Not only was Taylor 63 (although claimed to be mid-40s), and not only was it late October (and therefore icy cold), and not only had no one ever done it before (talk about terrifying!), but did I mention that the A. stands for Annie? That’s right – a woman was the brave soul who first tumbled over the Falls and lived to tell the tale. So I now declare Oct. 24 to be Annie Edson Taylor Day, celebrating brave women the world over!
Evidently Taylor hoped to profit financially from the endeavor (as a schoolteacher nearing retirement she didn't have a lot in the bank), although that didn’t pan out. For a while after the feat, Taylor made some money for speaking engagements about the adventure, touring with a manager and the very barrel itself, but shortly thereafter the manager ran away with the barrel* and Taylor spent most of the earnings up to that point trying to track them down. She lived almost twenty years after her tumble, and was fittingly buried in the "Stunter's Rest" section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY.
I don’t have permission for any pics of the feat, but check out a few other locations – wikipedia and the history channel website - or google image search it to see her being helped out of the barrel (in her dress!), but here's a pic of us at Niagara Falls.
*Typical, amiright? That sexy barrel. Simply irresistible.