Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921)
Over a century ago today on October 24, 1901, a 63-year-old teacher climbed into a wooden rowboat accompanied by two men and a half-submerged pickle barrel in tow. Taylor decided that in order to procure more funds to ensure a healthy retirement, she had to perform an amazing act to draw attention to herself. The pickle barrel was fully insulated by a rolled-up mattress, a heart-shaped pillow, and possibly her cat for moral support.
Both she and the cat survived with minor cuts to their heads. Taylor was able to use her notoriety from this stunt to make some extra cash but was unable to make enough to retire comfortably.
The horrendous drop or the possibility of dying did not deter others daredevils from repeating this stunt. A more recent (2012) article from The Toronto Star called How did these people survive a plunge over Niagara Falls? provides a fresh perspective from the point of view of the survivors who jumped into the Falls and fell all the way to the bottom without any protective wear. One jumper, Kirk Raymond Jones, lived to tell his tale and tour in a circus.
Daredevils Above the Falls
Charles Blondin was a tightrope daredevil and attempted this feat without a net or safety harness to prevent him from falling into the "boiling cataract." His only request was that the day would have good weather. The photograph shows Charles carrying a pole tethered with the Royal Union flag on the left to represent Canada and the American flag on the right and a chair hanging on the tightrope in front of him to perform more death-defying stunts.
Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library
In 1975, Henri Rechatin rode on a motorcycle driven by a partner on a tightrope, while another acrobatic performer is also tethered to the motorcycle and swings behind the cable car. Henri here attempts to climb down into the cable car below. Three people participated in this daring feat and relied on each other -- the motorcyclist keeping the bike steady, Rechatin using the balancing pole to keep everything in balance, and the female acrobat below to hold her pose.
Here is another picture of Henri (spelled Henry in this photograph taken by Graham Bezant) Rechatin on May 23, 1976, beginning his tightrope stunt while rolling on a single metallic wheel. It looked to be a chilly day as he was wearing a long-sleeved sweater. This photograph shows Rechatin clearly focusing on his task of balancing his feet on the metal wheel to keep it stable while it rolls over the tightrope.
Courtesy of Toronto Public Library
More interesting resources
There are many more stories on Niagara Falls that are not mentioned here. For more information on Niagara Falls and her daredevils, please refer to the following titles listed below:
There are more titles written in the nineteenth century on this great travel location from that period's perspective to look through. Also, for those who have the daredevil in them to zip above the Falls at a fast rate, the Zipline & Aerial Adventure is somthing to try.
Niagara Falls is that extra bit more wonderful with her daredevils there to entertain the tourists with their death-defying feats. Unfortunately for some, these stunts have cost them their lives. The Falls beguile these people to hurl themselves into the mouth of the raging waters or to tiptoe above it, while denying the Falls its tender human morsels. Either way, these brave people are now part of the Falls' history and their stories continue to attract tourists to this great place.