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When Oscar Wilde visited Niagara Falls in 1882, he declared that the Falls must be the “earliest if not the keenest disappointment in American married life.” Wilde was neither the first nor the last to notice the peculiar relationship between heterosexuality, the honeymoon, and Niagara Falls. The Second Greatest Disappointment charts the growth of Niagara as a tourist destination from the 1850s to the present, and shows how it acquired its reputation as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World.” Tourist industry records, as well as interviews with people employed Niagara’s hotels and attractions, provide an insider’s perspective on the marketing of this cultural landmark.
Karen Dubinsky also traces the history of the honeymoon, placing in context of changes in the public culture of heterosexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. So when Cary Grant declared to Grace Kelly in the 1955 film To Catch a Thief, “What you need is ten minutes with a good man at Niagara Falls,” everyone knew he was not referring to sight-seeing.
The Second Greatest Disappointment uses travelers’ drawings, advertisements, and guidebook photographs to tell an engaging story about an old North American landmark.
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In this provocative history, Karen Dubinsky addresses a deceptively simple question: of all the ways to promote a waterfall as a tourist destination, why honeymoons?
For two centuries Niagara Falls has attracted tourists from around the World. After a visit in 1882 Oscar Wilde sardonically declared that the Falls must be the second greatest disappointment in American married life. Wilde was responding to the peculiar relationship, already well established in his day, between heterosexuality, the honeymoon, and the Falls. Dubinsky explores what it was like not just to visit the Falls but to live and work behind the mists of such celebrity. From Victorian marriage manuals to Marilyn Monroe(and the movie Niagara) she treats the Falls not only as a metaphor and icon, but also as a real place, populated by real people who helped to shape its cultural meaning.About the Author:
Karen Dubinsky teaches history at Queen's University.
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