Annie Edson Taylor Over a Barrel

Annie Edson Taylor  was born on October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York. On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, she became the first person in history to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. Ms. Taylor hoped to secure her financial future with the stunt, but aside from some initial speaking engagements and a memoir she didn’t make much money. Her manager stole the barrel, and she had to use up her savings to hire private detectives to track him and the barrel down again. Annie died in Niagara County and her body is interred in the ‘Stunter’s Rest’ section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls on the New York side of the waters. In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the waterfalls of southern Laos. – Jadi

On our last trip to Laos we headed south to the quiet little city of Pakse in the Chapasak province. We wanted to see old ruins – and really spectacular waterfalls!

For the latter we booked a guide to reach the Bolaven Plateau. Hiking in to some of the waterfalls was a gloriously steep, wet walk.

Later, with the same guide (and boats) we were carried to 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don). I was beyond amused to notice the signs on some of the guesthouses in  4,000 Islands, announcing that special, magical pancakes were available for breakfast…. My German husband missed the inference and asked why I was laughing. “Guests can get their pancakes laced with the noble herb,” I informed him. [1] Sure enough, plenty of tourists in the 4,000 Islands region spent all their time literally hanging out in hammocks. They were all way too relaxed – or something – to be ambitious. They were in no hurry to explore.

Or move.

The Mekong River splits into branches at this end of Laos and tumbles over  boulders and channels cut through rock.

When the French colonized Laos they came up with a bold (and ultimately quixotic) plan to build a railway through the region. They  wanted to go around the waterfalls and create a faster, easier way to travel and ship goods either to the north, or to the southern Vietnam port of Saigon. The result is what a CNN article wryly refered to as “Laos’ first railway: 14 km of rust” [2].

The Mekong defeated the engineers, and 4,000 Islands is a beautiful sleepy area.

But oh, those waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau: we hiked in to as many as our young guide was willing to take us to. And we didn’t even need a barrel.

In memory of Annie Taylor,   24 October, 1838 – 29 April, 1921

NOTES: [1] I turned 16 the year that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. If you know me, you know this fact explains everything, including what makes me laugh. [2] CNN travel. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Waterfalls of Laos: South 2. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

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8 thoughts on “Annie Edson Taylor Over a Barrel”

  1. That Annie Taylor was one brave, and crazy (in a good way) woman!
    I know another brave woman who set out alone on a scooter to explore the Bolaven Plateau many years ago. I’ve always wanted to do that, though don’t know if I’m brave enough – but you sure make a case for going there, even if it’s not alone on a scooter.

    1. Annie Taylor was driven by desperation mostly: she needed money to put food in her children’s bellies. But what a way to decide to earn it… and on her 63d birthday at that!

    1. I agree. She would have been amazing at any time in history and she did her stunt without sophisticated protection, to say nothing of the status of women at the time. Annie did it two decades before women even had the right to vote. I was also startled and impressed by her age: 63. What a woman!

      1. In the 1970’s, I went on a date with a man who asked me to name a famous woman. I named Queen Elizabeth and Marie Curie. He said there weren’t many because women were inferior. He was trying to convince me to sleep with him. I said, “No. Take me home.” He was so upset, he was speeding on the way — while continuing to try to convince me of my inferiority. I laughed when he got a ticket for speeding and an additional ticket for having an expired inspection sticker.

        Late in life,, I found out there were many women whose accomplishments had been suppressed. I often wonder if Einstein’s wife was the one who came up with the theory of relativity.

          1. I pity any woman who married him.

            When Ms. Magazine first appeared, there were articles about women who were relegated to the dark corners of history. I enjoyed reading about their achievements, too.

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