From Yahoo! Malaysia News:
Niagara Falls had been a tourist destination for decades before 1901, but it wasn’t until Oct. 24 of that year that the first person decided to ride a barrel over the falls.
Former schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor made the plunge on her 63rd birthday, hoping for fame and fortune. Taylor, whose husband had died in the Civil War, had traveled around the country taking various jobs before eventually settling on the barrel scheme as a way to avoid poverty in her old age.