Today's post is about an amazing woman who was born in 1838, and 63 years later became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Annie Edson Taylor was born in Auburn, New York and her father (who left behind enough money to support his widow and eight children) died when she was twelve years old (1: No Paternal Safety Net). As a teenager, she attended a four year course in order to become a school teacher, and graduated with honors (10: The Critic Within). During her training, when she was 17 years old, she met David Taylor, who became her husband. They had a baby boy, but he died within days of being born. When Annie was only 25 years old, she became a widow when her husband was killed in the Civil War (15: Forget About Prince Charming).
For a number of years she changed jobs and locales frequently. In addition to working as a music teacher (9: Music), she also worked as a dance instructor. During her 30s and 40s she lived in both Bay City and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, San Antonio, Texas, and even Mexico City (14: Selective Disassociation), but eventually returned to New York.
In a bad financial state, she decided to try to be the first person to ever successfully ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel (11: Risk Addiction). She had the barrel custom made out of Oak and Iron, weighted with a 200-pound anvil, and padded with a mattress and a leather harness. It was four and a half feet high and three feet in diameter. She and her barrel were taken by rowboat to Grass Island, where she crawled inside with her "lucky" heart-shaped pillow (3: Belief in the Unbelievable). At 4:05 a.m. on the morning of her 63rd birthday, the barrel was set adrift, and passed over Horse Shoe Fall.
By 4:40 a.m. the barrel was captured, and much to every one's surprise "Mrs. Taylor was alive and conscious" (13: More Than Meets the Eye).
A portion of the barrel had to be sawed off for her to emerge, but she walked along the shore to a boat that took her to Maid of the Mist Dock where she was taken by carriage into the City of Niagara Falls. Three doctors examined her and found a three-inch cut behind her right ear to be her only injury.
Annie earned money speaking about her experience, but she never became financially stable. What little money she did earn from her lectures was (along with the barrel) stolen by her manager. She used her savings to pay for detectives to track him down; he and the barrel were eventually discovered in Chicago.
Annie's last years were spent posing for photographs with tourists at her Niagara Falls Souvenir stand. She died destitute (12: Hard Times) in Lockport, New York at the Lockport Home and Infirmary. Currently, a play about her (called "Queen of the Mist") is being staged at the Gym at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Looking forward to your comments...