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Interpreting the Evidence

Niagara Falls in Winter, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Niagara Falls in Winter, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Buildup of snow and ice at the American Falls and Ice Bridge, Niagara Falls, circa 1900.
Historical Context
While Niagara Falls does not freeze in winter, an ice bridge forms at the bottom of the falls with water flowing underneath.  It has been reported that up to eighty feet of thick ice has formed across the base of the falls in the past.  Until 1912, visitors were actually allowed to walk out on the ice bridge; however, on February 4, 1912, the ice broke up, and three tourists died.
Essential Question
How does geography influence human settlement patterns and economic systems?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of this body of water on New York's settlement and economy.
Historical Challenges
Of the three falls that make up Niagara Falls, which has frozen completely in the past? When did the freeze occur, and why?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Why doesn't Niagara Falls freeze in winter?
English Language Arts: You are the mayor of the city and have been told that people can no longer walk on the ice bridge. Write a letter to your townspeople explaining why they can no longer go out on the ice bridge.