Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Niagara Falls was once a premier resort and a magnet for daredevils eager to make a name for themselves. Anyone challenging the mighty falls was sure to attract some front-page publicity at the turn of the century -- especially if the daredevil happened to be a 50-year-old woman careening over the falls in a barrel. An excerpt from The Post of Oct. 25, 1901:
Niagara Falls, N.Y., Oct. 24 --
Minnie Edson Taylor, fifty years old, went over Niagara Falls on the Canadian side this afternoon and survived, a feat never before accomplished and, indeed, never attempted except in the deliberate commission of suicide. She made the trip in a barrel. Not only did she survive, but she escaped without a broken bone, her only apparent injuries being a scalp wound one and a half inches long, a slight concussion of the brain, some shock to her nervous system, and bruises about the body. She was conscious when taken out of the barrel. The doctors in attendance upon her to-night said that though she was somewhat hysterical, her condition is not at all serious and that she probably will be out of bed within a few days.
Mrs. Taylor's trip covered a mile ride through the Canadian rapids before she reached the brink of the precipice. Her barrel, staunch as a barrel could be made, was twirled and toppled and buffeted through those delirious waters, but escaped serious contact with rocks. As it passed through the smoother, swifter waters that rushed over into the abyss, it rode in an almost perpendicular position, with its upper half out of the water. As it passed over the brink it rode at an angle of about forty-five degrees on the outer surface of the deluge, and descended as gracefully as a barrel can descend to the white foaming waters 158 feet below.
True to her calculations, 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 eighteen 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 Main 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, or seventeen minutes after it shot the cataract. Ten minutes later the woman was lifted from the barrel, and half an hour later she lay on a cot at her boarding place on First street in Niagara Falls on the American side. She thanked God she was alive, thanked all who helped her in any way, 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 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.
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