63-Year-Old Annie Edson Taylor Went Over Niagara Falls in Nothing More Than a Barrel

By Trista

During a time where women were believed to be the “weaker sex,” Annie Edson Taylor proved she was stronger than anyone in an extraordinary way. Taylor became the first person to survive going down Niagara Falls in a barrel. One day, Taylor was reading about people who performed stunts around Niagara Falls. Wanting to secure herself financially in her later years, this gave Taylor an idea. She would throw herself off of Niagara Falls in a barrel. She believed this would give her the fame and fortune she wanted. So, after much planning, Taylor performed the stunt on her 63rd birthday.

Early Life

Annie Edson made her presence into this world on October 24, 1838. Born in Auburn, New York, she was one of eight children to Merrick Edson and Lucretia Waring. At the age of 12, her father, who owned a flour mill, suddenly passed away. Fortunately for Annie and her family, her father had secured them financially, and they continued to live comfortably. After Annie completed her schooling, she went off to get her teaching certificate, which she achieved through a four-year training program.

Annie Edson Taylor, 1901, Niagara Falls Public Library. New York Heritage Collections.

It was during her studies at the training program where Annie met a man named David Taylor. They began courting and got married. While they lived well financially, they weren’t without their struggles. The couple had one child, a son, who passed away during infancy. Tragedy would strike the Taylor family again when David passed away while fighting in the Civil War. The couple had been married for seven years at David’s passing. Without David, Annie began to struggle financially, and soon she found herself moving from place to place.

After the death of her husband, Taylor mainly worked as a teacher in various places. At one time, she moved to Bay City, Michigan, with the goal to become a dance teacher. Taylor believed her chances at becoming a successful dance teacher were high because there were no dance schools in the area. Unfortunately, this did not work out, so Taylor decided to move to Sault Ste. Marie with dreams of teaching music. However, this did not work out as planned; Taylor moved to San Antonio, Texas before trying her luck in Mexico City. None of these places worked out for Taylor, thus, she eventually moved back to Bay City.

Replica of Taylor’s barrel at IMax. Wikipedia.

Plans Towards Niagara Move Forward

Like many people, Taylor disliked her financial situation after her husband passed away. She became desperate to bypass the poor house in her later years. Also, she started to feel that a regular teaching job would not secure her financially for her later years. After all, Taylor was in her early 60s and still had no financial security. On top of this, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to find work. Taylor felt she needed to look in other directions to secure her financial future. The moment Taylor believed she had found her new path came when she was reading about stunts around the world, including Niagara Falls.