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Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls (the Horseshoe, the American. and the Bridal Veil) that straddle the US-Canadian border. The Horseshoe Falls lie mostly on the Canadian side, wile and the American and the Bridal Veil are on the American side. Located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, with a vertical drop of more than 165 feet (50 m). Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by vertical height and flow rate. According to Bruce Trigger, "Niagara" is derived from the name given to a branch of the locally residing native Neutral Confederacy, called the "Niagagarega" people on several late-17th-century French maps of the area; these were actually the Onguiaahra ("Near the big waters" or possibly "The Strait"). The largest group referred to themselves as Chonnonton ("Keepers of The Deer") due to their practice of herding deer into pens. Numbering from 12,000 to 40,000 people, they were a largely agrarian society who comprised about 40 permanent settlements. The Wendal ("Huron") called them the Attawandaron ("people whose speech is awry," or "a little different"), and the Niagaras called the Wendal by the same term -- the Huron and the Niagaras both spoke Iroquoian languages but were culturally distinct. The French called them "la Nation neutre" because they tried to remain neutral between the warring Huron and Iroquois; because their territory contained flint grounds near the eastern end of Lake Erie, important for sharp tools, spearheads, arrowheads, fire starting equipment, and eventually flintlock firearms, they were able to trade profitably with their more powerful neighbors and maintain their neutrality. However, once these peoples began receiving firearms from the Europeans, the possession of the flint grounds was no longer an advantage. In the course of the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois expanded their influence, and by 1653 the Niagaras were nearly annihilated; they were last mentioned by the French in 1671.
In 1880 Oscar Wilde stayed at the Prospect House in Niagara Falls, Ontario,writing in the hotel album, "The roar of these waters is like the roar when the mighty wave of democracy breaks against the shores where kings lie couched at ease." Two years later he lectured in the US; after his 12th lecture, at Buffalo, NY, on Feb. 8, he and telegraphed The New York Herald: "When I first saw Niagara Falls I was disappointed in the outline. The design, it seemed to me, was wanting in grandeur and variety of line, but the colors were beautiful. The dull, gray waters, flecked with green, are lit with silver, and are full of changing loveliness, for loveliest colors are colors in motion. It was not until I stood underneath the Falls at Table Rock that I realized the majestic splendor and strength of the physical forces of nature here. The sight was far beyond what I had ever seen in Europe. It seemed a sort of embodiment of pantheism. I thought of what Leonardo da Vinci said once — that the two most wonderful things in the world were a woman's smile and the motion of mighty waters." Then, in October, he told the same paper, "They told me that so many millions of gallons of water tumbled over the falls in a minute. I could see no beauty in that. There was bulk there, but no beauty, except the beauty inherent in bulk itself. Niagara Falls seemed to me to be simply a vast, unnecessary amount of water going the wrong way and then falling over unnecessary rocks." In 1883 he returned to New York to supervise the production of his play, "Vera," and defended his earlier comments, telling the New York World, "Niagara will survive any criticism of mine. I must say this, however, that it is the first disappointment in the married life of many Americans who spend their honeymoon there." Back home in England in September, he claimed that he "was disappointed with Niagara — most people must be disappointed with Niagara. Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life. One sees it under bad conditions, very far away, the point of view not showing the splendour of the water. To appreciate it really one has to see it from underneath the fall, and to do that it is necessary to be dressed in a yellow oil-skin, which is as ugly as a mackintosh — and I hope none of you ever wears one." But by the end of the year, he finally perfected the aphorism to achieve the desired audience reaction, reminiscing, as was reported of his lecture at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, "Of course, when one went to America he was brought to see Niagara. Every young American went and spent part of his honeymoon at Niagara, and he thought the great waterfall must prove the first disappointment in American married life." In 1927 the editors of "Anecdota Americana" provided an unascribed, stand-alone quip, "NIAGARA FALLS! The bride’s second great disappointment!" But it was not until 1977 that Laurence J. Peter ("Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time")decided that even Wilde was not Wilde enough and created for him one of his most memorable apocryphal quotes, namely, "Niagara Falls is only the second biggest disappointment of the standard honeymoon."
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