The very first person to ever survive a trip over Niagra Falls in a barrel was actually a woman in her 60’s named Annie Taylor. Annie had been a school teacher, and her reason for attempting the fall was a financial one. A woman in this time period would’ve depended on her family, her husband and children, to care for them once they’d grown old; sadly Annie’s child had passed away in infancy and her husband had perished during the civil war. Yes, Annie had lived a rough life and was understandably trying to secure her future.
So, once she came up with this seemingly hair brained idea, Annie designed her barrel; it was carefully constructed of wood, iron, well padded with a mattress, and within she’d placed her lucky heart-shaped pillow. Even once her barrel was finished, Annie had a hard time trying to find people willing to help her perform the feat. Not only was it illegal, but people felt it was suicide and they’d wanted no part of it. Only after Annie could prove that her barrel could survive the fall on its own would two assistants come to her aid.
Finally, on her 63rd birthday, October 24th of 1901, Annie climbed in her barrel and did what she’d set out to do! Over the falls she went, and she did survive with only minor injuries.
Incredible, really! Annie did make some money for her accomplishment, but her crooked manager ran off with her barrel; Annie spent much of what she earned trying to catch and bring this man to justice. She passed away in April of 1922, at the age of 82; this remarkable woman was laid to rest in Niagra Falls Oakwood Cemetery, near another Daredevil named Carlisle Graham.
So, the fact that a woman had been capable of doing something like this, something which had been deemed suicide, was really a big deal! Within 4 years of Annie’s plunge, 15 people went over the falls; five of them did not make it. During the time when Annie went over the falls, Bobby Leach, a Daredevil who had worked for Barnum and Bailey, owned a restaurant nearby. Patrons were talking non stop about Annie’s accomplishment; not willing to be shown up by a woman, Bobby bragged that anything which Annie could do, he could do better. On July 25th of 1911, Bobby set out to put his money where his mouth was. He did survive the fall in his barrel, but nowhere near as gracefully as his female predecessor; Bobby spent more than 6 months in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained – including a fractured jaw and 2 broken kneecaps.
Known as the first man to survive Niagra Falls, Bobby was suddenly a celebrity; not only did he receive more press than Annie ever thought about, but he definitely saw more of a financial profit. Bobby traveled all over North America with the barrel which took him over the edge of the falls, something which Annie had been robbed of. He met with fans, posed for pictures, signed autographs, that type of thing. Eventually he went back to Niagra Falls, New York, where Bobby opened a pool hall.
Now for the irony. 15 years after his fall, Bobby was just walking down the road when he happened to slip on an orange rind, of all things. This fall caused a broken leg which quickly became gangrened; it became so bad that the leg required amputation. Nevertheless, Bobby just couldn’t kick this infection, and on April 26th of 1926, he died from it.
Ultimately, the first man to survive a trip over Niagra Falls died after falling on an orange peel.
*Happy 4th, y’all! Have a great one; stay safe, stay healthy, and drink one with me! I’m not a drinker, at all, and my mom has me drinking something frozen with fresh squeezed pineapple already lol it’s only 11am! I may be back in bed by noon 😂 Have a good one, y’all!