Victorian Photos of Frozen Niagara Falls

©. William England/London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images

Humans have been marveling over this wintry spectacle since long before Instagram.

The first time I went to Niagara Falls I was absolutely awestruck ... and not because of the power and majesty of all that rushing water. My quirky wanderlust had brought me there in the first week of January, and the whole place was just covered in glittering ice. To my California eyes, it was a magical winter wonderland beyond what I ever could have imagined. With the falls-generated mist creating layers of ice on everything – trees, light posts, the iron scrollwork of the low fencing – it was straight out of a fairy take. And that the falls themselves in some places stood stopped in their tracks, literally frozen still, was just the surreal icing on the cake.

Fast forward to this week and a crazy cold snap has worked its magic on the falls again. I'm not sure how frequently this happens, but this time around, social media has been particularly resplendent with images of the (somewhat) frozen falls over the last few days. Exhibit A:

American Niagara Falls covered in ice

© Colin Dewar/Shutterstock

It all led me down a winter-wonderland rabbit hole, where I stumbled upon many fabulous historic photos of the area beautifully gripped in freezing temperatures. While the falls of course have had a long history with the people who were there long before the Europeans and others came to town, the area started to became a tourist attraction in the 1820s, around the same time as the birth of the camera. Put two and two together, and voila: Photos of the frozen falls during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

1859: (Above) Niagara Falls in winter, seen from Goat Island. Luna Island stands in the middle of the cascade, known as the American or Rainbow Falls, and Prospect Point can be seen in the background.

1865: (Below) Great Ice Bridge and American Falls, Niagara Falls, NY, USA.

Frozen niagara falls

1866: Niagara Falls frozen below Table Rock.

Frozen niagara falls

1880: The ice mountain.

niagara falls

Library of Congress/Public Domain

1883: People on snow-covered ice at the base of the frozen American Falls, Niagara Falls, New York.

niagara falls

1885: Terrapin Tower and Frozen Fall, from Goat Island.

Frozen niagara falls

1890: Niagara Falls on the border between Canada and the USA in winter.

niagara falls

1890: Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side.

Frozen niagara falls

Library of Congress/Public Domain

1909: American Falls frozen over.

Forzen niagara falls

1911: Below the American Falls.

Frozen niagara falls

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain