Bobby Leach sitting atop his barrel that carried him over the falls in 1911 making him the second person and first man to go over the falls in a barrel
An Englishman named Bobby Leach successfully made a trip over the falls in a steel barrel and was the first man to ever do so. Leach had been a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was no stranger to stunting. Prior to his trip over the falls he owned a restaurant on Bridge Street and would boast to customers that anything Annie could do…he could do better.
On July 25th, 1911 he took the plunge over the falls and spent the next six months recuperating in hospital from various fractures and contusions he suffered during his ordeal. After surviving the plunge he went on to make a good living by touring vaudeville theatres and lecture halls, recounting his harrowing experience, and displaying his barrel.
Leach returned to Niagara Falls, New York in 1920 and operated a pool hall. While in his sixties he attempted to swim the whirlpool rapids but failed after several attempts. During these aborted attempts, Bobbie Leach was rescued by Red Hill Sr., a riverman, who knew the Falls well. Red Hill Sr. would also become well known in the area for later rescues, and a son, Red Hill Jr. would also attempt a journey over the brink.
Unlike Annie Taylor before him, Bobby Leach attained some success from his endeavour. For several years he toured Canada, the United States and England, recounting his harrowing journey at vaudeville shows and lecture halls, exhibiting his barrel and posing for pictures.
Luck would run out for Bobby Leach fifteen years later, when he slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg while on a lecture tour in New Zealand. Unfortunately the first man to ever brave the Mighty Niagara and live to tell the tale succumbed to complications from his injury.