Born on October 24, 1838, in Auburn, New York, Taylor was a teacher who struggled financially after her husband was killed in the Civil War.
After her death, she moved from place to place for many years, continuing to work as a teacher. Despairing about her situation, and in the hopes of achieving fame and fortune, she decided to try to become the first person to successfully travel down the Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Niagara Falls is part of the Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The falls consists of three separate waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls. Taylor chose Horseshoe Falls, which are located in Canada, for her stunt, hiring a manager to promote the event.
She then had a special padded pickle barrel built, whose outer oak ribs were cushioned inside. She then climbed in, with helpers screwing the lid shut and pumping it full of air with a bicycle pump.
On October 24, 1901, several thousand people turned out to see Taylor set adrift above the167-foot-high falls, float off the lip and disappear. She made it over the falls successfully, with only minor cuts and bruises, making her the first person, and the first woman, to successfully ride the falls in a barrel. News of her success was carried in several newspapers, and some reports included Taylor’s alleged comment to other daredevils: “Don’t try it.”
Her daring brought her media attention, but not the riches she had hoped for. Her manager reportedly embezzled all the money she earned for the stunt, and Taylor lived in poverty until her death on April 30, 1921, dying at the ripe age of 83.
And now you know the…rest of the story.