Tuesday, February 26, 2008

June 26, 1926 (P.M.) - Buffalo

[Note: This postcard is the second note Papa wrote to my grandmother while he was in Buffalo for a Zionist Organization of America conference in 1926. To see a larger view of the card, click the thumbnail image on the right side of this page.]


Sat. Afternoon

My dear Jeanie:

I am in Canada now1,
The sight of the falls on both
sides in indescribable.2
For heavens sake, someday
I must take you out here
to see one of the worlds
wonders.3 Harry


1 - In his previous card, Papa mentioned that he was about to get on a bus to Niagara Falls. It was typical for him to write my grandmother morning and night when he was separated from her.

2 - The Falls were indescribable for Papa, perhaps, but whoever wrote the copy for the back of this postcard compensated with a Niagra-like torrent of descriptors:

This new beauty of Niagara differs from
the beauty that the Creator made working
through inanimate life. For here He
worked through the inventive genius of
man, and gave Niagara a new glory that
can be turned on and off at the mere
pressing of a switch-button, throwing
on the billion candle power batter of elec-
tric searchlight which floodlights the Falls,
the batteries being hidden in the foliage
work invisibly and in no way mare the
scenery with the imprint of man's hand.
Nor does the conquest end here, for the
searchlights of Niagara when sent upward
into the sky may be seen for seventy five
miles away.

This breathless passage takes up almost the entire back of the card and forced Papa to squeeze his note to my grandmother into the limited remaining space. I suppose the lighting of Niagara Falls was truly remarkable in a world where electric light was still making its way into everyday life, so perhaps we should forgive our postcard writer's wordy triumphalism. Meanwhile, those who prefer a slightly more objective description can turn to a New York Times report on the debut of the Fall's evening light show, which occurred just over a year before Papa's visit:

Niagara Falls Glows Under Electric Lights
As Vast Beams of Colors Flash Upon It

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., May 1925 Niagara was illuminated tonight by electric light of 1,300,000,000 candle power, generated by its own power...

On top of an old spillway in Victoria Park on the Canadian side, midway between the Horseshoe and the American Falls, a battery of twenty-four 36-inch Ryan scintillators had been placed, under the direction of W. D'Arcy Ryan, illuminating engineer of the General Electric Company. When night settled the lights were turned on. The initial beams were of white light, and the falls took on the appearance of milk pouring from the higher to the lower level.

As the display progressed color screens were brought into service. There were red, orange, green, blue and violet of the spectrum colors and deep red and magenta of the special colors, while the soft colors were pale blue, orange and rose. A change of screens made the falls look like a torrent of blood. Another change gave an orange hue to the falling waters, which turned to green with another shifting of screens.
For the record, the Horseshoe Falls had felt the touch of electric illumination, if only momentarily, prior to 1925. A Times article published on October 19, 1919 describes a ceremony in which "the Prince of Wales arrived at Niagara Falls, Ont." as "the guest of Dr. Harry Grant, Park Commissioner of Queen Victoria Park. When the Prince reached Dr. Grant's house he pushed a button that lighted the Horseshoe Falls. It made a wonderful sight, the first time the Horseshoe Falls have been illuminated."

3 - Papa did eventually take my grandmother to Niagara Falls -- on their honeymoon, of course.



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