Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Traveling with History: Niagara Falls

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.
My Husband and I heading for the Falls

Historically, Niagara Falls was established as the ideal honeymoon destination by the French in the early 1800s. For my family, my parents honeymooned there in 1959 and my brother and sister-in-law celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at the Falls. 

Legend has it that Napoleon’s brother, Jerome Bonaparte, spent his honeymoon in Niagara Falls, and since everyone wanted to be like royalty, people began choosing it as the go-to place.  Indeed, promoters jumped on the idea and began promoting the idea of a “honeymoon” and Niagara Falls as the place to do it.  There are even films dedicated to the idea like the 1953 film Niagara starring Marilyn Monroe, or 1980’s Superman II that shows Superman/Clark Kent professing his love for Lois Lane.

However, there is much more to the Falls than just a romantic getaway, it is also the major power provider to New York and Ontario, Canada. Niagara Falls consists of two waterfalls on the Niagara River, which marks the border between New York and Ontario.  The American Falls is located on the American side of the border, and the Canadian or Horseshoe Falls is located on the Canadian side. To the right of the American Falls is a smaller waterfall that has been separated from the American Falls by natural forces, which is called Bridal Veil Falls.  We stayed on the Canadian side and by many accounts, considered to have the best views.

Of course, Niagara Falls is not just for couples.  It has also been the place for daredevils in barrels and tightropes.  In October of 1829, Sam “The Yankee Leapster” Patch, jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived.  This jump began the tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls. On October 24, 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Today, it is hard to go to the falls without making a barrel reference or joke. 

So, even today, Niagara Falls considers itself the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.”  While the city bills itself as the ultimate romantic getaway, it can definitely come across as more kitschy than romantic.  However, one constant does exist—the Falls are a work of nature and sight to truly see. 

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