A History of the Falls

By Pierre Berton

Subjects: New York/regional, History, Geography
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438429281, 481 pages, July 2009

Table of contents

Ice and water
A prodigious cadence
"The most awful scene"
Augustus Porter's sylvan bower
William Forsyth's folly
The jumper and the hermit
"That Enchanted Ground"
The father of geology
Spanning the gorge
John Roebling's bridge FOUR
Miss Bird "does" Niagara
Frankenstein's monster
Mr Church's masterpiece
The Prince of Manila
Farini the Great
Farini the flirt
The legacy of Niagara
Into the maelstrom
The cave of the forty thieves
Private greed
A ramble on Goat Island
Saving Niagara from itself
Casimir Growski to the rescue
Harnessing the waters
The golden age
Utopian dreams

Arthur Midleigh's folly
The ice bridge
Fame and fortune or instant death
The Canadian connection
The people's power
The Second Battle of Niagara
The red-headed hero
The soaring ambitions of Adam Beck
The riverman's return
The Richest Man in Canada
The end of the Honeymoon
Young Red's last ride

The witch's end of fairyland
The park man
The river takes over
The fighting Tuscarora

The miracle
Drying up the Falls
Love Canal makes the news
The mother instinct
The long crusade of Lois Gibbs
Taking hostages


A sweeping history of this natural wonder, from its geological beginnings to the present.


"The noble cataract reflects the concerns, failings, and fancies of the times. If we gaze deeply into its shimmering image we can perhaps discern our own. " - page 22

"[Pierre Berton] makes a serious and convincing case for Niagara's pivotal role in North American history. . .. His Niagara is a lodestar for North American culture and invention: site of the first railway suspension bridge, inspiration for Nikola Tesla's discovery of the principle of alternating current, and the subject of Frederic Church's most celebrated landscape; a natural wonder that has bewitched generations of scientists, authors, and utopians, and stimulated innovations and social movements still casting long shadows. . .. surprising, rich and engrossing. " -- Thurston Clarke, New York Times Book Review

"Canadian historian Berton tells dozens of absorbing tales about the region and those who passed through it . .. He tells them all superbly, aided by essential maps and a few reproductions of posters advertising some of the more bizarre stunts. " -- Publishers Weekly

"Entertaining. . . . Berton brings to life the adventurers and dreamers, visionaries and industrialists, who over centuries have been drawn to the Falls. " -- Maclean's

"Berton at his storytelling best; there is something here for everyone. . .. a vintage, full-bodied read. " -- The London Free Press

"A book worth diving into. " -- Calgary Herald

"By turns ironic, amused, shocked, horrified and awestruck, Berton traces Niagara's history through the deeds of those who came in contact with it . .. all the while walking the fine line between detachment and emotion with agility and grace. " -- The Whig-Standard (Kingston)

Pierre Berton was one of Canada's most popular and prolific authors, and is widely credited with popularizing Canadian history. His previous books include The Wild Frontier, Prisoners of the North, Klondike, The Invasion of Canada, and The Great Depression.