Niagara Falls: A Tourist’s View

21 April 2016

Cultural Studies | History

On a recent trip, I was lucky enough to take a detour and visit Niagara Falls, a tourist hotspot since the mid-nineteenth century. This stunning, natural phenomenon is one of the world’s most popular attractions, with more than 12 million visitors each year – and it’s not hard to see why.

“Horseshoe Fall and Profile Rock” © George Barker. Reproduced by kind permission of Michigan State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

This image, of a male and female tourist at the cusp of the Horseshoe Falls, is almost irresistibly romantic (assuming this innocent stroll along the lake was a prelude to a marriage proposal). Prospective visitors must have been awed by the juxtaposition of intimacy and grandeur it portrayed.

Yet, while Niagara Falls has long been pitched as a getaway of choice for honeymooners, like many a solo traveller, I became involved in a love affair with the view.


“Horseshoe Falls from Canada” © George Barker. Reproduced by kind permission of Michigan State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

I like to think the same can be said of George Barker, the Canadian-American photographer famous for these stereographs of the falls. He captured the views from many angles in these images from the forthcoming History of Mass Tourism resource. Taken from the Canadian side, this is close to the elevator that now takes you behind the falls. 

  “At the Cave of the Winds” © George Barker. Reproduced by kind permission of Michigan State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Part of the appeal of these images is the way they demonstrate the public’s close proximity to the falls, which has long attracted the more adventurous tourist. Offering a close up of the American Falls, these intrepid explorers were snapped at the Cave of the Winds, a tour that still runs today. I spent my weekend on the Canadian side so I was able to spot Hurricane Deck, just rebuilt for these trips in the spring and summer months. 

“Signorina Maria Spelterini Crossing Whirlpool Rapids—Niagara—on a Tight Rope”© George Barker. Reproduced by kind permission of Michigan State University. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

This breath-taking photo of Maria Spelterini, the only woman to cross the Niagara gorge on a tight rope, is one you shouldn’t try to recreate at home. Not content with crossing once, this nineteenth-century daredevil decided to up the challenge by tying baskets to her feet the second time and returning blindfolded a third time. Finally, she crossed with ankles and wrists shackled together. 

 

So finally, here’s a snap of my own, featuring the spectacular Horseshoe Falls.
Almost as impressive as those taken of my fellow tourists, thanks to that view.

A view of the Horseshoe Falls from Canada © Clare Mence, 2016. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

The document featured and more on tourism can be found in the forthcoming resource History of Mass Tourism, due for publication in summer 2016. Full access restricted to authenticated academic institutions who have purchased a license.
For more information, including trial access and price enquiries, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Clare Mence

Clare Mence

I joined Adam Matthew as a Development Editor in 2014. Since then, I have enjoyed working on a number of exciting projects and look forward to many more.

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