Annie Edson Taylor was a school teacher in Bay City, Michigan. At the age of 62 she retired but was not ready to take it easy just yet.

Annie was born in Auburn, New York in 1838. As a young adult she became a schoolteacher and married David Taylor. They had a baby who died as an infant, and David died not long afterward. Distraught that her life was falling apart, Annie traveled to Bay City where she opened her own dance school. Not profitable or rewarding enough, in 1900 she left for Sault Ste. Marie and became a music teacher.

Still restless, she went to San Antonio, Texas and then to Mexico City. It was during her time out west that she claimed to have been on a stagecoach that was robbed by Jesse James and his gang. She survived being robbed of $1,000, as she had sewn the money in the hem of her dress, which went undetected. Unsuccessful at finding work in the west, she returned to Bay City.

Get our free mobile app

Losing money through bad investments, Annie needed money to keep up her lifestyle of hob-nobbing with the elite society. She recalled seeing Niagara Falls with her father and being mesmerized by the sound and majestic power of the falls. This recollection gave her an idea: she could make money if she was famous – and one way to do it was to be the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.

She had a special barrel built, lined with padding on the inside. Before she took the plunge, she figured she better test it first. So she put her cat inside the barrel and sent it over the falls. The cat survived, and was pulled out of the barrel, scared and with a bleeding head – but alive (this cat incident has been reported and denied in several places).

So, after a failed first attempt on October 23, she made the plunge on October 24, 1901. She survived, shaken and bleeding, making the statement, "no one ought ever do that again”.

Her attempt for fame and fortune only came half-true...she gained the fame but not the fortune. She made personal appearances to sign autographs but few people showed up. A man who was hired as her manager swiped Annie's famous barrel and toured the country with a younger, more attractive woman that he figured would bring in more paying customers, passing her off as the real Annie.

Annie's nerves, sore neck & shoulders, and her head gash weren't the only repercussions of the plunge. In spring 1921 Annie became institutionalized at the Niagara County Infirmary in New York. Her health was suffering and she was nearly blind which she blames on her Niagara Falls stunt.
Annie Edson Taylor passed away in the infirmary on April 29, 1921 at the age of 82.

Michigan Woman Was the First Person to Survive Niagara Falls in a Barrel

MORE EXCEPTIONAL MICHIGANDERS:

Willis Ward

The Lighthouse Ladies

Spikehorn Meyer