The first publicized honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls was in 1802 by Theodosia Burr, daughter of Aaron Burr, the Vice President of the United States. Soon after, in 1804, Jerome Buonaparte, brother of the more famous Napoleon, traveled with his new American wife Elizabeth Paterson from New Orleans for the same reason.
The history behind Niagara Fall’s reputation as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World” can be more tied to the post-war’s emerging middle class. The vast majority of North Americans had finally gained access to disposable income, motor cars and vacation time – articles that not only reinvented travel, but the honeymoon itself. As class gaps closed, the honeymoon became one of the earliest instances of mass tourism.
For the first time, newlyweds were able to mark their officially sanctioned sexuality. Niagara Falls poised itself as the cultural icon for which love and newlyweds could celebrate their nuptials. As Niagara Falls became a tourist destination, so too did the honeymoon became a staple feature of post-war marriage and, coincidentally, a culturally acceptable metaphor for sex.
Today, Niagara Falls is seen as a tacky tourist trap, but once upon a time, it was romantic, magical and a place where one’s love and sexuality was discovered for the first time.
A Niagara Falls song written in 1841 summed it up best:
Oh the lovers come a thousand miles
They leave their homes and mother;
Yet when they reach Niagara Falls,
They only see each other.