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What do Charles Blondin, Annie Edson Taylor and Nik Wallenda have in common? All three pulled off death-defying stunts at Niagara Falls. In 1859, “The Great Blondin” crossed the gorge on a tightrope 1,100 feet long. Forty-two years later, Taylor became the first person to survive a trip over the falls in a barrel. And this June, Wallenda became the first person to walk a tightrope directly above the falls.Blondin and Wallenda made their crossings as high-wire artists, eager to show off their skill in front of large audiences. Blondin was a consummate showman, traversing the gorge several times, always with a twist. He crossed blindfolded, he crossed on stilts, he crossed carrying his manager on his back.Taylor did it for the dough. On her 63rd birthday, she climbed into an oak barrel and plummeted over the 165-foot falls in hopes of securing money for her golden years. Though she survived the drop with only a minor gash to her head, a big payoff eluded here. She did earn some money giving speeches and posing for photos. But she was destitute when she died 20 years later at the Niagara County Infirmary in Lockport, N.Y.This Associated Press account of Taylor’s feat made the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune. The AP reporter got her age wrong – though to be fair there are hints she lied about that. A sidebar with material attributed to a Tribune reporter – a phone interview, perhaps? – was part of the package.
|Annie Taylor's custom-made barrel was 4 1/2 half feet tall and about 3 feet in diameter.|