Annie Edson Taylor

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Annie Edson Taylor
Annie Taylor.jpg
Annie Taylor posing next to her barrel
Born(1838-10-24)24 October 1838
DiedApril 29, 1921(1921-04-29) (aged 82)
Lockport, New York, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Other namesQueen of Mist
Known forFirst person to go over Niagara Falls intentionally and survive. She used a specially-made barrel on 24 October 1901.

Annie Edson Taylor (October 24, 1838 - April 29, 1921) was an American schoolteacher who, on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel.[1] Her motives were financial but she never made much money from her adventure.

Early life[edit]

Annie Edson Taylor was born on October 24, 1838, in Auburn, New York.[2] She was one of eight children born to Merrick Edson (1804–1850) and Lucretia Waring;[3] her father owned a flour mill and died when she was 12 years old, leaving enough money to provide a comfortable living for the family. She became a schoolteacher (she received an honors degree in a four-year training course). During her studies, she met David Taylor. They were married and had a son who died in infancy. Her husband died soon after. After she was widowed, she spent her working years in between jobs and locales.

Eventually, she ended up in Bay City, Michigan, where she hoped to be a dance instructor. Since there were no dance schools in Bay City at that time, Taylor opened her own. She moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1900 to teach music. From there, she traveled to San Antonio, Texas, then she and a friend went to Mexico City to find work. Unsuccessful, she returned to Bay City.[4]

Niagara Falls[edit]

"The Queen of the Mist" posing with her barrel and cat

Desiring to secure her later years financially, she decided she would be the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor used a custom-made barrel for her trip, constructed of oak and iron and padded with a mattress.[5] Several delays occurred in the launching of the barrel, particularly because no one wanted to be part of potential suicide. Two days before Taylor's own attempt, a domestic cat was sent over the Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength to see if the barrel would break or not. Contrary to rumors at the time, the cat survived the plunge and seventeen minutes later, after she was found with a bleeding head, posed with Taylor in photographs.[6]

Replica of Taylor's Barrel at the IMAX Theater Niagara Falls Attraction

On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, the barrel was put over the side of a rowboat, and Taylor climbed in, along with her lucky heart-shaped pillow. After screwing down the lid, friends used a bicycle tire pump to compress the air in the barrel. The hole used for this was plugged with a cork, and Taylor was set adrift near the American shore, south of Goat Island.

The Niagara lake currents carried the barrel over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, which has since been the site for all successful daredevil stunting at Niagara Falls. Rescuers reached her barrel shortly after the plunge. Taylor was discovered to be alive and relatively uninjured, except for a small gash on her head. The trip itself took less than twenty minutes,[7] but it was some time before the barrel was actually opened. After the journey, Taylor told the press:

If it was with my 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 make another trip over the Fall.

Later years[edit]

She briefly earned money speaking about her experience but was never able to build much wealth. She wrote a memoir and returned to Niagara Falls to sell it.[8] Her manager, Frank M. Russell, ran away with her barrel, and most of her savings were used towards private detectives hired to find it. It was eventually located in Chicago, only to permanently disappear some time later.[citation needed]

She spent her final years posing for photographs with tourists at her souvenir stand, attempting to earn money from the New York Stock Exchange, briefly talking about taking a second plunge over the cataracts in 1906, attempting to write a novel, re-constructing her 1901 plunge on film (which was never seen), working as a clairvoyant, and providing magnetic therapeutic treatments to local residents.[citation needed]


Taylor's grave

Taylor died on April 29, 1921, aged 82, at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, New York, and was interred next to English-born daredevil Carlisle D. Graham (1850–1905)[9] in the "Stunter's Rest" section [10] of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York. Her funeral was held on the 5th of May, 1921. She attributed her bad health and near blindness to her trip over the falls.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Annie Taylor's character appears in the IMAX film Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic.[11]
  • Emma Donoghue has written a short story featuring Taylor's descent.[12]
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple had an episode entitled "The Heart-Shaped Pillow of Annie Taylor."
  • Composer Michael John LaChiusa wrote a musical, "Queen of the Mist", based on Taylor's life. It was premiered by Transport Group in New York City on October 18, 2011, and starred Mary Testa as Taylor.[13]
  • Taylor's story inspired the plot to the episode "Barrel Bear" of the television show Wonderfalls.
  • Chris Van Allsburg has written a children's book called "Queen of the Falls" about her amazing feat.
  • Annie is portrayed at Niagara Falls State Park by Kathleen Ordiway on the "Encounter Niagara" tour.
  • In TV Murdoch Mysteries 7-1 "Murdoch Ahoy", Annie (Jillian Cook) is in Toronto for a speech, at the police station accusing her manager (Joel Rinzler) of stealing her barrel.[14]
  • Her story also appears in "Niagara Falls Daredevil, Accidental Nuclear Bomb, Railroad Heroine", an episode of Mysteries at the Museum.[15]
  • The poet John Wall Barger portrayed Annie Edson Taylor as the heroine/radiation victim of a fictitious movie in his 2014 poem "Chernobyl."
  • Joanne Murray wrote a long narrative poem- Queen of the Mist, published by Beacon Press in 1999.
  • She is also depicted in a National Geographic special "Conquering Niagara" where National Geographic documents all stunts attempted over the falls.


  1. ^ Niagara Falls Live Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Kusmierz, Marvin (20 March 2010). "Anna Edson Taylor (1839–1921) Bay City teacher was first person to go over Niagara Falls". Bay-Journal, Bay City, Michigan. Archived from the original on 25 October 2016. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  4. ^ Biodata Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Parish, Charles Carlin, Queen of the Mist: The Story of Annie Edson Taylor, First Person Ever To Go Over Niagara Falls and Survive (Empire State Books, Interlaken, New York, 1987, ISBN 0-932334-89-X); p. 47.
  6. ^ Parish, C. Queen of the Mist, ibid., p. 55
  7. ^ First barrel ride down Niagara Falls,, Retrieved 23 October 2016
  8. ^ "Overlooked No More: Annie Edson Taylor, Who Tumbled Down Niagara Falls Into Fame". The New York Times. 2019-05-01. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-02.
  9. ^ "WOMAN GOES OVER NIAGARA IN A BARREL". Oakwood Niagara. The New York Times. 25 October 1901. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  10. ^ "Oakwood Cemetery Commemorates War of 1812: Historic Congressional Presentation, Stunters Rest Tour, Nature Walk, Tree Planting" (PDF). Niagara Chamber of Commerce. Oakwood Cemetery of Niagara Falls. 9 July 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "BBC Radio 3 – The Verb, Emma Donoghue, Hannah Silva, Gary Shteyngart, Roz Goddard, Winning Words". BBC.
  13. ^ "Transport Group's Queen of the Mist, Starring Mary Testa, Extends Through December 4".
  14. ^ "TV Murdoch Mysteries 7-1 "Murdoch Ahoy"". CBC News. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Niagara Falls Daredevil, Accidental Nuclear Bomb, Railroad Heroine." Mysteries at the Museum, performance by Don Wildman, season 4, episode 1, Travel Channel, 15 Nov. 2012.

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