Today in History: Barrel Ride Down Niagara

| October 24, 2017

171023_news_219x365Can you imagine riding down Niagara Falls… in a wooden barrel … with a total height of 167 feet and three drops, and water flowing at the rate of 85,000 cubic feet to the second?! For thrill, fame, theatrics, beautiful views, sheer madness, or fascination with the morbid — begging the question as to why any human being, let alone a female teacher at the turn of the 20th century, would undertake such a dangerous, life-threatening, and illegal act … and why daredevils continue to perform at all costs, whether it’s Blondin Crossing the Niagara, Philippe Petite on a tightrope between the Twin Towers, or Justin Casquejo, New Jersey teen, who scaled Paramount Tower this past June.

Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921), a Bay City, Michigan schoolteacher, became the first person to plunge down Niagara Falls in a barrel. Seeking both fame and fortune, New York born Annie took the ride on her 61st birthday, October 24, 1901, in a five-by-three wooden, but well- cushioned pickel barrel. After a rough twenty-minute ride, she reached the shore, by and large unharmed, to be met by a flurry of photographers. Speaking engagements ensued, as well as a number of daring stuntmen who attempted the Falls — illegally over the next century.

The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.

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