Niagara, Etc.

Unfortunately, not even Egyptian mummies and coffins could keep the Barnetts ahead of their competition in Niagara. Their increasingly desperate attempts to draw customers included a staged buffalo hunt with Wild Bill Hickok, involving eleven buffaloes, horses, and countless Indians in full battle gear. The Barnetts eventually succumbed to bankruptcy, and were forced to sell the museum to longtime rival Saul Davis in 1878. Davis purchased more Egyptian antiquities, including five mummies, from the Woods Museum of Chicago, and moved the museum to the American side of Niagara Falls. The Shermans, a local family, purchased the museum in 1942, relocating to a former corset factory on the Canadian side in 1958. These frequent moves and their careless execution wreaked havoc on the antiquities; the final relocation of the museum was reputedly conducted by dump truck, with coffins and mummies haphazardly piled in the back.

As Barnett discovered a century earlier, tourists are fickle; crowds no longer lined up for the Civil War memorabilia, mummies, and fossils in the Sherman's eclectic collection. People now came to see the "Freaks of Nature" display, featuring a two-headed calf and other animal oddities, and the array of barrels used by daredevils attempting to conquer the falls. The declining condition of the antiquities, changing interests of the tourist market, and extremely valuable location of the building all combined to seal the fate of the museum, forcing the owners to close its doors in 1999.

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