The first person to survive Niagara Falls has an unbelievably heart-breaking life story.

Before she earned the nickname "The Queen of the Mist," Annie Edson Taylor was a music teacher in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  She was having a hard time financially when she saw an ad in the paper that gave her hope according to the Radiolab podcast.  That ad was looking for someone that was willing to brave Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Nobody had ever successfully pulled off this stunt in the past.  Understand, the water crashes down in such a violent manner that you can hear the falls 5 miles away.

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In 1901 Taylor had a friend build her a barrel.  She then jumped on a train from Michigan to the falls in the hopes that she would come out of this with paid appearances.  She was just trying to make ends meet.

Here's the first shocking fact that many people don't know about this record-breaking moment.  Annie successfully braved Niagara Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901.  That happened to be her birthday according to Wikipedia.  Her 63rd birthday.  You read that right.  The first person to survive the falls in a barrel was a 63-year-old woman from Michigan.

Here's the second shocking fact.  Following this huge moment, her manager, Frank Russell took the barrel and hired a young model.  Russell, the model, and barrel toured around the world making tons of money.  In 1901 there was no way for the average person to fact-check and find out that the model was not the real "Queen of the Mist."

Annie Edson Taylor was able to speak at a small number of events about her experience being the first person to survive the falls.  But, it was not enough to help her financially.  At the age of 82 Taylor died poor, almost 20 years after her amazing feat.

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