Annie Edson Taylor Biography

Annie Edson Taylor was a teacher and daredevil who was the first person to ride down Niagara Falls in a barrel.


Born on October 24, 1838, in Auburn, New York, Annie Edson Taylor was a teacher who struggled financially after her husband was killed in the Civil War. Believing she’d be able to earn fame and fortune, Taylor decided to have herself placed in a padded pickle barrel and released into Niagara Falls. She survived, though she did not garner wealth from the event. She died on April 29, 1921.

Early Life

Adventurer and daredevil Annie Edson Taylor was born on October 24, 1838, in Auburn, New York. Growing up, Taylor liked to read books and enjoyed playing outdoors. She studied to become a teacher, and married David Taylor at the age of 17. After seven years of marriage she became a widow after her husband died while fighting in the Civil War.

Niagra Falls Stunt

Taylor moved from place to place for many years, working as a teacher. She struggled financially, and despaired about her situation. In the hopes of achieving fame and fortune, she decided to take on the dangerous challenge of being the first person to successfully travel down the Niagara Falls in a barrel.

The Niagara Falls are a part of the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The falls consists of three separate waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls. Taylor chose the Horseshoe Falls, which are located in Canada, for her stunt. She hired a manager to promote her spectacular act, and had a special barrel built.

On October 24, 1901, several thousand people turned out to see Taylor face the approximately 167-foot-high falls. She was secured inside the barrel with some cushioning, and set adrift. She made it over the falls successfully, with only minor cuts and bruises, making her the first person, and the first woman, to successfully ride the falls in a barrel. News of her success was carried in several newspapers, and some reports included Taylor's alleged comment to other daredevils: "Don't try it."

Aftermath and Death

Her daring brought her media attention, but not the riches she had hoped for. Her manager embezzled all the money she earned for the stunt, and Taylor lived in poverty until her death on April 30, 1921. She was 83 years old.

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