This view of Niagara Falls is one scene from the scenic wallpaper Views of North America first produced by the French firm Zuber et Cie in 1834. This scenic contains 32 panels and shows some of the natural wonders of the continent: New York bay, Boston harbor, West Point, & the natural bridge of Virginia. Scenic wallpapers were introduced around 1804 and remained popular with new designs being introduced until 1865. Zuber is still printing a number of these early designs today, using the original woodblocks. Scenic papers were the epitome of block printing: they usually contained 20-32 panels, and each set could require thousands of wood blocks to print. There was no repeat within a set, and the last panel lines up with the first so multiple sets could be used in a room for a continuous view. The length of this set is 15 m, is printed in 223 colors and requires 1690 wood blocks to print.
The power and awe of the falls has been skillfully captured by Zuber in this scene composed of six panels. Long a source of wonder tourism began to flourish around Niagara Falls at the beginning of the 18th century, and by mid-century had become the region’s main source of revenue. Along with tourists the falls also attracted a number of daredevils, feeling challenged to test their skills against the power of nature. In 1859 a French acrobat made his first tightrope walk over the falls, and in 1901 a Michigan schoolteacher was the first to go over the falls in a barrel. Several days prior to her departure the teacher sent her housecat over the falls in this same barrel for a trial run.