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Niagara Falls Frozen Over in 1911? - Analysis


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Page 1: Text & Images

THE NUMBER ONE question everyone asks about this set of images is, "Does Niagara Falls ever really freeze over like this?" And the answer is yes. During an extended winter cold snap a hardened crust of ice can accumulate over parts of the falls — American Falls in particular — creating an amazing, naturally-formed ice sculpture, if you will, that has been known to reach a thickness of 50 feet. Neither the river nor the falls ever freezes solid, mind you. The water continues to flow beneath the ice at all times, albeit reduced to a mere trickle on rare occasions when ice jams block the river above the falls.

Historically, when this blanket of ice has spanned the entire Niagara River, the phenomenon has been known as the "ice bridge." Just as you see in the photos, people used to stroll and frolic on and around the frozen falls and even walk across the ice bridge, though no one has been allowed to do the latter since 1912, when the bridge unexpectedly broke apart and carried three tourists to their deaths.

About the images

All of the photographs in this mailing appear to be authentic, though it's unlikely any were actually taken in 1911.

The first in the set, a sepia-toned photograph listed as an Internet find on the website of the Niagara Falls Public Library, is of unknown date and origin, according to the documentation. The image also appears on the Niagara Falls Live website, where its placement implies it was taken during the historic freeze of March 1848, when the falls actually "went dry" for a few days due to the formation of an ice dam on Lake Erie.

The second image, a panoramic view of American Falls, the infamous ice bridge, and the "ice mountain" bedotted with antlike human visitors, was reproduced a few years ago on a now-defunct website called Nostalgiaville, where the photo was dated 1936. The Washington Post reported on February 2 of that year that the falls had indeed "frozen dry" for the second time in history.

Image #3 is a scan of a picture postcard, originally hand-tinted, displayed on the Niagara Falls Public Library Web site. The card was postmarked August 25, 1911 (though the photograph probably wasn't taken in that year), and bore the following caption: "The cave of the Winds, gyved with a marvelous accumulation of ice and the great flow of water completely hidden by crystalline helmets. Such a sight is rarely to be witnessed, however for history records only three, the last time in 1886, when it is said, a million persons visited Niagara to see the marvelous exhibition of the ice king."

Image #4, entitled "Great Mass of Frozen Spray and Ice-Bound American Falls Niagara," is also from the Niagara Falls Public Library collection, where it is catalogued as a stereo image by Underwood & Underwood. It is dated 1902.



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Sources and further reading:

Facts About Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls Live

Niagara Falls: Ice Bridges and Ice Booms
Niagara Falls Thunder Alley

Does Niagara Falls Freeze in Winter?
Niagara Falls Thunder Alley

Fun on the Ice Bridge
Historical photos from Edsen Breyer's Postcard Museum


Last updated: 01/09/14


Current Hoaxes / Netlore
The Urban Legends Top 25

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