Annie Edson Taylor, 63, was the first to take the plunge. While not the first person over the falls (and who knows how many were tossed over them against their will) she was the first to do it in a barrel. Poor and seeking fame and fortune, the Civil War widow and 2 assistants strapped herself into a barrel 5 feet high and 3 feet around. Leather straps and cushions lined the barrel to protect her. However, her 15 minutes of fame lasted only about that and there was no fortune for Annie. She spent the rest of her life working as a street vendor in Niagara Falls, and died there in 1921.
First Barrel Ride Down Niagara Falls 1901