Ride Comes Before the Fall

This Day in History

With a dramatic drop of 167 feet and “the greatest flow rate in the world,” it’s easy to see why those who have elected to gain notoriety by “barreling” down Niagara Falls have been viewed as both courageous and completely insane.

Perhaps if one were to guess just what sort of person would be the first to actually survive such a daring escapade, one might envision a strapping young man just youthful enough to believe in his own invincibility.

In truth, quite the opposite took place on this day in 1901 when on Annie Edson Taylor’s 63rd birthday, desperate for money and hungry for fame, she decided to take the fateful “plunge” that would land her squarely in the annals of American folk history.

On October 24th, 1901, this unknown widowed school teacher positioned herself in a slightly cushioned oak barrel, after which she was dropped out of a tugboat and into the water.

Prior to her departure in a barrel painted with the slogan “Queen of the Mist,” she attempted to test the safety of her feat by first sending a cat down in the barrel.

Miraculously, the cat remained unscathed albeit angry and disoriented after his befuddling journey in complete darkness down the falls. And when all was said and done, the “Queen” survived her rapid descent as well and had nary a scratch upon her, just a minor skull contusion.

Annie Taylor with Her Angry Cat

And for all of her bravery and complete mindlessness, what was her reward?

Well, with the exception of a scant mention in the history books, nothing much. She never became wealthy from her crazy stunt and sadly, her manager even “managed” to steal her world-famous “Queen of the Mist” oak barrel.

And just what advice would she have for future daredevils? Perhaps the answer can be found buried within the following quote from her regarding the possibility of again barreling down Niagara Falls.

“If it was my last dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than to make another trip over the fall.”

Wisdom is indeed attained by trial.

Annie Taylor and her Barrel
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