Overcoming Niagara

Canals, Commerce, and Tourism in the Niagara-Great Lakes Borderland Region, 1792–1837

By Janet Dorothy Larkin

Subjects: New York/regional, History, American History, Geography, Industrial / Labor Relations
Hardcover : 9781438468235, 300 pages, February 2018
Paperback : 9781438468242, 300 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Introduction

2. The “Greatest Display in Nature”: The Niagara−Great Lakes Borderland Region before the War of 1812

3. “As Irresistible as the ‘Cataract of Niagara’ ”: The Erie Canal and the Promises of the North American Canal Age

4. “A Salutary and Desirable Competition”: New York State Influence in the Building of the First Welland Canal

5. The Oswego Canal: “One of the Great Traveling and Commercial Thoroughfares”

6. “The Great Wonder of the Canal”

7. Conclusion


Analyzes the nineteenth century canal age in the Niagara-Great Lakes borderland region as a transnational phenomenon.


In Overcoming Niagara Janet Dorothy Larkin analyzes the canal age from the perspective of the Niagara–Great Lakes borderland between 1792 and 1837. She shows what drove the transportation revolution, not the conventional story of westward expansion and the international/metropolitan rivalry between Great Britain and the United States, but a dynamic connection, cooperation, and healthy competition in a transnational-borderland region. Larkin focuses on North America's three most vital waterways—the Erie, Oswego, and Welland Canals. Canadian and American transportation leaders and promoters mutually sought to overcome the natural and artificial barriers presented by Niagara Falls by building an integrated, interconnected canal system, thus strengthening the borderland economy and propelling westward expansion, market development, and the Niagara tourist industry. On the heels of the Erie Canal's bicentennial in 2017, Overcoming Niagara explores the transnational nature of the canal age within the Niagara–Great Lakes borderland, and its impact on the commercial and cultural landscape of this porous region.

Janet Dorothy Larkin has taught history at several colleges and universities and specializes in early nineteenth-century American history with a focus on the United States–Canada borderland.


"Overcoming Niagara is an important book that addresses an often-overlooked part of New York State history. While hundreds of books have been written about the Erie Canal and Niagara Falls, very few have addressed the interconnection of the Niagara–Great Lakes region. Readers and scholars interested in New York history will find this study valuable and worthy of their attention." — New York History

"…the historical research is excellent and the grounding in primary sources is impressive. Dozens of printed travel accounts, guidebooks, newspapers, government reports, and manuscript sources in both Ontario and New York archives lay a solid foundation for this project. Larkin has written an important book that enriches our understanding of Niagara Falls tourism, the first American tourism destination." — Journal of Tourism History

"Well-written and cogently argued, Larkin's book is a welcome addition to a small body of scholarship that argues for the importance of a Great Lakes and transnational perspective in Ontario history." — Ontario History

"Overcoming Niagara is … borderlands history at its finest: it takes a familiar subject and, in the words of the great borderlands historian David Weber, 'makes it strange.' Specialists and nonspecialists alike stand to learn much from this readable and well-executed study." — CHOICE