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 in June 2012, 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 her. 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.





Besides a Few Slight Bruises, Mrs. Taylor Escaped Without Injuries.

Associated Press Dispatch
Niagara Falls, N. Y., Oct. 25. -- Mrs. Anna Taylor, aged 52 years, yesterday passed over Niagara Falls and escaped alive and without injury except a scalp wound one and one-half inches long.
  Annie Taylor's custom-made barrel was 4 1/2 half feet tall and about 3 feet in diameter.
She made the trip in a barrel, and, true to her calculation, the anvil fastened to the bottom of the barrel kept it foot downward, and so it landed. Had it turned over and landed on its head Mrs. Taylor's head must have been crushed in and her neck broken. The ride through the rapids occupied fifteen minutes.
It was 4:23 o'clock when the barrel took its leap. It could not be seen as it struck the water below, because of the spray, but in less than half a minute after it passed over the brink it was seen on the surface of the scum-covered water below the falls.
It was carried swiftly down to the green water beyond the scum; then half way to the Maid of the Mist landing it was caught in what is known as the Maid of the Mist eddy and held there until it floated so close to the shore that it was reached by means of a pole and hook and drawn In upon the rocks, at 4:40 o'clock, seventeen minutes after it shot the cataract. The woman was lifted from the barrel, and half an hour later she lay on a cot at her boarding place in Niagara Falls on the American side. She said she would never do it again, but that she was not sorry she had done it, "if it would help her financially."
She said she had prayed all during the trip, except during “a few moments” of unconsciousness, just after her descent.
The barrel in which Mrs. Taylor made the journey is four and one-half feet high and about three feet in diameter. A leather harness and cushions inside protected her body. Air was secured through a rubber tube connected with a small opening near the top of the barrel.
Mrs. Taylor is a school teacher and recently came here from Bay City, Mich.
To a Tribune reporter Mrs. Taylor said:
“I struck on the rocks three times. I was thrown about in a frightful manner. I was whirled like a top, and the water seemed to pour in upon me from all sides. I knew for an instant everything, but I couldn’t think. I am not sorry I did it. I feel that I should offer a prayer that my life has been spared.
“I would not do it again for a million dollars, and if it were my last breath I would caution all against doing it. I lost my senses about a minute in going over the falls, but I knew when I reached the lower river.”

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