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Niagara Daredevils: Topics in Chronicling America

A guide for researching the topic of the daredevils of Niagara in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Charles G. Stephens in his barrel." July 12, 1920. The Topeka State Journal (Topeka, KS), Image 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Adventurers seeking thrills and fame perform death defying stunts over the majestic rushing waters of the Niagara River. These daredevils bravely leap, tightrope, and hurl themselves in homemade contraptions over the raging falls for the chance to be "the one who survived." But many do not live to tell the tale. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


October 27, 1829 Sam Patch dives headfirst into the churning waters of the Niagara River from a platform over 85 feet high.
June 30, 1859 The Great Blondin crosses the Niagara River by tightrope.
August 25, 1873 Hailed as the next "Great Blondin," tightrope walker Henry Bellini crosses the Niagara River then leaps into the swirling waters below.
July 11, 1886 Carlisle Graham becomes first to go over the falls in a homemade barrel.
July 10, 1900 Peter "Bowser" Nissen journeys over the falls in a specially crafted boat with a cockpit.
October 24, 1901 Annie Taylor becomes the first woman to challenge the falls in a barrel.
June 28, 1911 Lincoln Beachy flies first airplane over the falls and down within 19 ft. of the waters below.
July 25, 1911 Circus stuntman Bobby Leach first parachutes from a bridge and then makes a trip over the falls in a barrel.
July 11, 1920 Charles G. Stephens goes over the falls in a barrel strapped to an anvil.
July 4, 1928 Jean Lussier rides over the falls in a big rubber ball.
May 30, 1930 William "Red" Hill, Sr. makes second barrel trip over the falls before a crowd of thousands.
July 5, 1930 Chef George L. Stathakis goes over the falls with pet turtle "Sonny Boy" in 2,000 lb. barrel.
July 8, 1945 William "Red" Hill, Jr. battles the falls in a red barrel entirely made of steel.