What It Looked Like Wednesday: British monarchs at Niagara Falls, 1939

By Steve Cichon

You can tell this is an old photo of foreign tourists at Niagara Falls because there are no selfie sticks.

Buffalo News archives

King George VI (third man from the right) and Queen Elizabeth (with hat) didn’t need to take their own photos — thousands of images were snapped of their visit to North America in 1939. The man standing next to the queen is Mackenzie King, who spent most of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s as Canada’s prime minister.

This woman in the hat, known later to us as the “Queen Mum,” is the Queen Elizabeth whose name we invoke when talking about how to drive to Toronto or Niagara-on-the-Lake. The parents of the current Queen Elizabeth inaugurated the highway and dedicated the stone pillar entranceway in St. Catharines on this trip.

In Niagara Falls, the king and queen dedicated the Rainbow Bridge even though it wasn’t quite finished.

The Royal Tour continued from the Niagara Region through Western Canada, before George and Elizabeth’s North American trip ended with a visit to New York City and Washington, D.C., and a visit to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A journey filled with firsts, it wasn’t only the first time a British monarch had visited the United States — it was also the first time a king or queen had visited Canada.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.