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In 1827 a group of hotel owners came up with a scheme to bring more tourists to Niagara Falls. William Forsyth, the owner of the Pavilion Hotel, bought a condemned boat named The Michigan. General Parkhurst Whitney of the Eagle Hotel and John Brown of the Ontario hotel were also in the scheme.
A flyer was printed up and handed out on both sides of the U.S.A / Canada Falls. The brochure stated that “The Pirate Michigan with a cargo of ferocious wild animals, will pass the great rapids and falls of Niagra on September 8,1827 at 6 pm.” The Michigan was, in fact, a merchant vessel not a pirate ship. The ship was dressed up to look like a pirate ship and even had human dummy figures, placed and tied to the deck to help with the realism.
The animals were supposed to come from local area forests. The hotel owners insisted that if the pirate ship took a specific route, it could survive Horseshoe falls, the largest of the three falls that form the Niagara Falls. On the flyer, as mentioned earlier, there were pictures of panthers, wolves, and wildcats. The animals were stated to be very muscular and therefore, able to survive the falls. The real-life animals on the ship were a buffalo, two small bears, two raccoons, a dog, goose, two fox, 15 geese, and an eagle.
On the day of the event, 10,000 people showed up to watch. The crowd was able to board the boat beforehand and get a closer view of the animals. The ship was then towed and released in the direction of the falls. As the boat neared the rapids, the hull was torn open, and the two bears escaped and swam to a local island. The other animals were not so lucky as they were either tied to or caged on the boat. The only animal to survive the fall was a lone goose.
This event was reported as the first ever tourism promotion held at Niagara Falls, but it wouldn’t be the last. In the years to come more animals, objects and even humans would go over the falls. In a bit of irony, the promoters sold “boxed lunches” during the event but forgot to collect the money for said lunches beforehand, when the ship went over the falls the customers started feeing in mass (finally a little bit of humanity at this event!) and most never came back to pay for those lunches. Yes, the promoters lost money because of this, but in the bigger picture, it was karma coming back with a vengeance for the actions of the promoters.
Mistakes Were Made:
Animal cruelty is an act that has gone on since the beginning of time and still continues to this day. Think of modern day dog fighting or cockfighting all for the appeasement of humans. In a survey of domestic violence victims, 71 % of the victims stated that the abuser also targeted their pets. Animals can’t call for help or mostly defend themselves, so there are more animal cruelty acts going on in this world then we all would like to believe.
Though an act like the Niagara Falls spectacle wouldn’t take place today, the act is part of a bigger microcosm of how we treat animals in general. We eat them, use their skin for clothes, shoes, use them for a premium upgrade of seats in vehicles, cruelly cage them for our amusement, etc.. It’s like we don’t realize they are living creatures as well because they can’t talk or speak English to us.
The promoters just wanted to draw more tourists to the falls and did not care if the animals lived or died. How was the ship supposed to sail this “safe course” when there was no human or machine on board to steer the boat? Gimmicky promotions usually reveal that whatever they are trying to sell is not worth it because they have to resort to gimmicks to try to sell. So I am assuming their hotels weren’t the best, and that’s why they resorted to this gimmick, otherwise just promote your hotel, right? Or they thought they were P.T. Barnum or somebody
On a lesser business note always collect the money before the show is over, otherwise y’all never get all of your money. That part of this tale is the only thing I found amusing about this story, that the owners got a little bit of karmic justice.
Originally published at https://mwmblog.com on May 27, 2019.