Tag Archives: Niagara

Who was the first person to go over Niagara Falls?

15 Jan

Back in 2010 I had the good fortune to spend time road tripping through America with a bunch of friends.

It wasn’t my first time in the States as I’d previously visited the west coat. But it was my first time on the eastern seaboard, and I was excited. Especially since the journey was going to end at Universal Studios Orlando, home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (yes I bought a wand, yes it was Hermione’s).

We all met up in New York for a few days’ sightseeing and then headed north towards Niagara. And while I didn’t even realise we were going to Canada until about two hours from the border (note to self, next time read the itinerary) I was thrilled to go as it allowed for a visit to Tim Hortons, which is famous for doughnut holes called Timbits.

Anyway, I don’t know about other people, but I’m always caught by surprise when visiting iconic places. For some reason I always assume they will be in the middle of nowhere so when, for example, I stumble on Buckingham Place in the middle of London, I can’t quite believe it’s real.

And so it was with Niagara Falls.

As we checked into our hotel and inquired about their location, I was expecting to bundle back into the minivan for a drive out to the sticks. But the answer was much more simple: “They’re down the end of the street” And so they were.

Despite being based in suburbia – and within two different countries – the falls were utterly breathtaking and worth a closer look. So I boarded a Maid of the Mist boat and proceeded to get very wet, despite the ‘protection’ of a poncho.

Despite its failings, I kept it as a souvenir, and promptly forgot about it – at least until I was cleaning out my garage this morning. And it made me wonder exactly what drives people to go over the edge. Surely no sane person would attempt it? I had to know more.

I had actually heard that the first person to undertake such a daredevil act was a woman. And it is true that Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to do the stunt in a barrel and survive – on her birthday, October 24, 1901.

But the first recorded person to go over was a 22 year old called Sam Patch, who dove headfirst from a height of 85 foot on October 7, 1829. He survived and then made a successful second, higher leap on October 17 that year.

Other firsts included :
– First funambulist (tightrope walker), Jean Francois Gravelet
– First African-American, William Fitzgerald, aka Nathan Boya
– First double stunters, Peter DeBernardi and Jeffrey Petkovich 

They all had fabulous stories, which you can read about here.

But if you’re thinking about giving it a go yourself, I suggest you think twice. It’s illegal these days and carries a hefty fine. Plus, there’s that little matter of potential death to think about.   

Far better to get your thrills at a theme park I think.