This print, which Currier & Ives probably sold for a few cents, allowed 19th-century families with modest incomes a view of one of the most famous natural attractions of the day. The illustrator probably did not visit the waterfall in person; artists tended to emphasize its dramatic height much more than this.
In addition to Hudson River School paintings by Thomas Cole and others, the falls starred in popular novels such as The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper (1823). In the print, the lone man with his gun calls to mind Cooper’s fictional frontiersman, Natty Bummpo, whose description of the falls was frequently quoted in guidebooks:
“The first pitch is nigh two hundred feet, and the water looks like flakes of driven snow afore it touches the bottom; and there the stream gathers itself together again for a new start, and . . . falls for another hundred.”