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Karl Bodmer's Eastern Views: Celebrating Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied

April 26 - August 31, 2008


Drawn from Joslyn's renowned holdings in the Maximilian-Bodmer Collection, Karl Bodmer's Eastern Views: Celebrating Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied features 34 watercolors and drawings of the eastern half of the United States painted by the young Swiss artist Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) during the initial phase of his and Prince Maximilian's (1782-1867) expedition to the upper Missouri frontier in the early 1830s. The exhibition features Volume 1 of Maximilian's original journals, here open to pages 84-85, upon which the prince recorded his visit to the coal mines at Mauch Chunk (present-day Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania, and created a charming drawing of the passenger rail carriage that took visitors to the top of the mountain where the mines were located. The exhibition also includes a print based upon Bodmer's portraits of the first Indians he and Maximilian encountered on their North American journey -- a delegation of Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) they met in St. Louis in March 1833. (right: after Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809-1893), Charles Vogel, engraver, Saukie and Fox Indians, Vignette X from the portfolio issued with Prince Maximilian's Travels in the Interior of North America, engraving with aquatint and roulette, hand-colored, second state, Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, Collection of Joslyn Art Museum)

Karl Bodmer's Eastern Views will be on view in Joslyn Art Museum's print gallery from April 26 through August 31, 2008. The exhibition celebrates Joslyn's publication of Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied.


The Eastern Views: From Boston to St. Louis, July 1832-April 1833

German naturalist Maximilian's expedition of 1832-1834 yielded the most important scientific exploration of the upper Missouri River since the journey of Lewis and Clark nearly 30 years earlier. To provide an accurate visual counterpart to his own written observations of the people and natural features encountered on the trip, Maximilian hired Bodmer, a skilled professional artist. Bodmer exceeded the expectations of his employer by producing in beautifully rendered watercolors and drawings a faithful and vivid picture of the United States during a period of tremendous transformation. (right: Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809-1893), View of New Harmony, watercolor on paper, Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, Collection of Joslyn Art Museum)

The works in the exhibition illustrate the portion of the journey covered in Volume 1 of the three journals, beginning with a stormy voyage across the Atlantic and ending with the frontier town of St. Louis. Maximilian's primary goal had always been the Western wilderness, but a combination of factors delayed his journey there: the belated delivery of essential supplies, wariness of a cholera epidemic affecting chosen routes of travel, and his own illness that required a lengthy recuperation in New Harmony, Indiana. In the months spent in the east, Bodmer immersed himself in his role as illustrator, producing drawings of the specimens collected for scientific purposes, the natural environment, and of the towns and settlements rapidly overtaking the frontier. His exquisite compositions offer a fascinating window on a brash new nation, from its burgeoning cities on the eastern seaboard to its pioneer farms of Indiana and Illinois.

For the Eastern Views exhibition, a descriptive label with each artwork features Prince Maximilian's own description of the subject. These quotes are excerpted from the new English translation of Volume 1 of Maximilian's journals


Joslyn's Publication of Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied

Many exhibitions and books have featured Joslyn's extraordinary holdings of beautifully detailed watercolors and prints by Karl Bodmer. Less attention has been paid to Prince Maximilian's manuscript journals, which the prince collectively called his Tagebuch. These journals, each containing about 300 pages filled with the prince's daily observations on people, places, flora, fauna, and events, written by him in a now obsolete German script and illustrated with his ink and watercolor drawings, are the subject of a complex, multiyear publication project being carried out by Joslyn's Durham Center for Western Studies in partnership with the University of Oklahoma Press. Volume 1, completely translated into modern English and fully annotated to aid the modern reader, will be available nationwide in bookstores, including Joslyn's Museum Shop, June, 2008.


Wall panel text from the exhibition


Karl Bodmer's Eastern Views 
In 1832-1834, Maximilian of Wied (1782-1867), a German nobleman and scientist, led a remarkable expedition up the Missouri River to study the natural history and native peoples of the American western frontier. Accompanying him were his family huntsman David Dreidoppel and a young Swiss artist named Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), whom Maximilian hired to document the journey with sketches and watercolors.
Before they began the trip upriver, Maximilian, Dreidoppel, and Bodmer spent nine months traveling across the eastern United States. Maximilian's experiences in the east-from Boston to St. Louis-occupied nearly half of his two-year stay in America and constitute one-third of his written diary. Accordingly, one-third of Bodmer's sketches and watercolors are also eastern in subject and as a whole provide a fascinating document of the forces of civilization transforming the United States in the 1830s. Bodmer's eastern images are the focus of this exhibition.
In 1839-1844, Maximilian produced a book based upon portions of his journals, titled Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-1834and accompanied by an atlas of 81 engravings derived from Bodmer's watercolors. However, until this year, the prince's longer, more complete hand-written diaries have never appeared in print. This exhibition celebrates the publication of Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied,the first of three volumes of Maximilian's manuscript journals to be completely translated into English and fully annotated for the modern reader.
An excerpt from the new translation of Maximilian's journals is included here on each label and describes in the prince's own words the subject that Bodmer has illustrated. The exhibition begins at left with the voyage across the Atlantic on the American brig Janusand continues counterclockwise around the gallery.


Object labels from the exhibition

The Brig Janus
pencil on paper
After six weeks of rough seas and intermittent seasickness (especially Karl Bodmer), the passengers of the Janus finally neared the coast of Massachusetts on June 30, 1832. The crew took out the ship's small boat with Bodmer aboard, and the artist made this sketch of the Janus from the vantage of the smaller craft.
Nice, clear, and sunny morning; sea smooth as a mirror. . . . Swimming sea birds with their white breasts glisten on the splendid, blue surface of the ocean. . . . Today we have been at sea for forty-four days; are only one and a half days from Boston and cannot get there. About ten o'clock the boat is lowered, and Mr. Bodmer makes a very accurate sketch of the Janus.
Cape Cod, First View of America
watercolor on paper
On the morning of July 3, the travelers sighted Cape Cod-the first glimpse of the North American continent. Bodmer's delicate representation of landfall as a line upon the distant horizon initially seems a minimal effort. When examined more closely, however, the sketch reveals the artist's remarkable precision in rendering tiny but distinct coastal details.
Ever since ten o'clock we had been looking for land, but a streak of fog concealed it. When, however, the observation of altitude was completed, we suddenly caught sight of land in the fog: Cape Cod lay to the south 15 miles from us. It revealed low white sand hills with several dark thickets on them.
Scene on the Janus
watercolor and pencil on paper
As the Janus continued toward Boston on July 3rd, Bodmer made several sketches from its deck. Here he shows the ship's captain at the rail inspecting the coast with a telescope. The seated figure is likely Maximilian, busily noting weather conditions and perhaps his own observations of the scene unfolding before him.
Individual fishermen's sails, brown or dazzling white, gleamed near the American coast, already veiled by the haze of the evening. Peace prevailed on this broad panorama. Only on shipboard were people still active, whereas we Europeans sent our searching gaze into the distance for new objects.
Galley on the Janus
watercolor and pencil on paper
Conditions on the Janus were cramped and the ship was not as well furnished as the prince would have liked. In the journal he wrote tersely: "Cabin small, no windows aft, six bunks." Bodmer's unfinished sketch reveals a somewhat primitive gallery with kettles and other cooking utensils crammed into and tumbling out of the tiny space that served as a kitchen.
We now sailed still farther up toward the Bay of Boston and at five o'clock saw scarcely more than a glimmer of Cape Cod. This afternoon the heat had become very great on deck. Two butterflies had strayed there but could not be captured. In addition to the sketch of Cape Cod, Mr. Bodmer had also outlined a small view of a section of the deck of the Janus with the galley.
Boston Lighthouse
watercolor on paper
Bodmer's lovely rendering of coastal features and the lighthouse near Boston reflects to a remarkable degree the details of Maximilian's journal entry for July 4, when the Janus entered the port of Boston during Independence Day festivities.
After about an hour, the ship turned and we approached even more closely the low coast that extended scenically before us and extensively on both sides. In the center, in the direction of Boston, stood, on a small rocky island, the snow-white lighthouse (Boston Lighthouse), with its black roof; beside it were several small picturesque islands, some of them of white sand covered with a grass carpet at the top and some of them rocks. Mr. Bodmer sketched a part of this view.
Entry to the Bay of New York from Staten Island
watercolor and pencil on paper
From Boston, the travelers went to Providence, Rhode Island, where they booked passage on a steamboat to the city of New York, arriving there on July 9. Bodmer's view of New York Harbor from Staten Island captures the bustle of the city that had become by 1830 the largest metropolis in the United States.
New York is a very large, imposing commercial city like the largest cities of Europe. It has 220,000 inhabitants, including Germans and very many foreigners, generally. The streets of the city are for the most part sightly, broad, and long, of which the finest, Broadway, is several miles long and very impressive. The houses are made of brick, very elegant, tall, decorated in English fashion. . . . Here one finds all the luxury and fashionable goods from Europe and the entire world.
View on the Delaware near Bordentown
watercolor on paper
Tourist sites recommended by the guidebooks of the 1830s included the country estates of such prominent people as Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, who had acquired a large tract of land on the Delaware River near Bordentown, New Jersey. The estate's attractions included extensive gardens and one of the finest art collections in the United States. Maximilian visited the estate en route to and from Philadelphia.
Bodmer painted two versions of this view of the landscape in the vicinity of the Bonaparte property, the second of which hangs to the right of the present one.
Since today was Sunday, when neither steamships nor stages go to New York, Mr. Bodmer stayed here, and after breakfast we took a walk to [Joseph] Bonaparte's garden. We viewed the nicest places and climbed up into the upper building and its high gallery, where we had a beautiful view of the entire region, and spoke with a Frenchman who lives in this building.
View on the Delaware near Bordentown: Joseph Bonaparte's Garden
watercolor on paper
Bodmer's second version of the landscape near Joseph Bonaparte's estate is more finished than the first (hanging at left). In this version, Bodmer applied the conventions of late-eighteenth-century landscape painting to create a more balanced and neatly framed composition. His alterations include lowering the hills on both sides of the river and introducing a clump of trees at left to frame the view. At right, he added a coach-and-four and a delivery wagon hurrying to meet the steamboat docked at the Bordentown landing.
View of Bethlehem on the Lehigh
watercolor on paper
Maximilian chose Bethlehem as the base for his studies of the flora and fauna of eastern Pennsylvania. Bethlehem was a predominantly German village founded in 1741 on the banks of the Lehigh River by the Moravian Brethren, a Protestant sect with origins dating to fifteenth-century Bohemia. The prince, Bodmer, and Dreidoppel spent more than six weeks in the area, taking afternoon walks to collect species and side trips by light carriage to visit and sketch nearby sites of interest.
This region of Pennsylvania is very beautiful. The most luxuriant lofty forests here spread forth their tall, leafy crowns. . . . Bethlehem is a colony of the Moravian Brethren in North America and one of the more outstanding ones. It is situated on the slope of a hill, has an impressive-looking church with a nice steeple, a cupola supported by several columns, and several handsome buildings such as the schoolhouse.
The Delaware Water Gap
watercolor on paper
The Delaware Water Gap is located on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River traverses a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Maximilian and Bodmer traveled along the Gap in August 1832 on their way to Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. By the 1830s, the Gap was already an established tourist site and therefore a worthy subject for Bodmer to illustrate.
We had now reached the mountain range that boldly rose on both sides of the river. To the left the valley, too, was already narrow, and the mountain wall rose more steeply with every step and the valley became more and more narrow. . . . The road now ran along the bank of the river in such a way that we could see the bank close to our right and the mountain rising abruptly beside our wheels. Here was a majestic primeval wilderness. . . . Mr. Bodmer sketched this view, since it is extremely wild and interesting.
View of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, with Railroad
watercolor on paper
The important nineteenth-century anthracite transportation center located near the town of Mauch Chunk (today named for the athlete Jim Thorpe) on the Lehigh River was also a center for tourism. Visitors came to marvel at the second oldest railroad built in the United States, an ingenious gravity-powered device that transported coal from the mine at Summit Hill to canal boats waiting on the river below. Bodmer's somber watercolor brilliantly captures the gloom of this raw outpost of industrial-ization in the midst of the American wilderness.
The town Mauch Chunk on the [Lehigh is] built right on the bank between tall, partly bare rocky and wooded mountains. Here are the well-known anthracite collieries, and all the buildings of the town belong almost exclusively and only to the company that has these mines worked. . . . The production of coal brings to this hidden, lonely, wild nook of the wild valley an interesting, noteworthy activity that provides a most interesting drama for travelers.
Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania
watercolor and pencil on paper
Leaving Mauch Chunk, Maximilian and Bodmer traveled to the neighboring village of Lehighton (originally known as Gnadenhütten) on Mahoning Creek, which became a popular rest stop for travelers in the nineteenth century. Here, the two men spent the night. Bodmer's watercolor sketch of the creek offers a delicate study in complementary pastel washes, which contrast with his fine detailing of the dark green foliage.
Near the outlet of the Mahoning Valley, a wooden bridge has been very picturesquely constructed over the Lecha [Lehigh River]. . . . Work is now being done on the bridge, so that we had to travel down on the other side of it through dense shady trees to the river and cross it, whereby the high stones jutting out of the rubble and hidden because of the cloudiness of the water could easily have overturned the wagon.
watercolor on paper
In the mid 1700s, the town of Lehighton was known as Gnadenhütten, originally settled by Moravian missionaries from Germany. The settlement was abandoned after an Indian uprising in 1755, and the new town of Lehighton was founded in its place in 1794. Bodmer's watercolor depicts the neat farms of the Moravian Brethren who remained at the original site.
The Brethren in 1769 [actually 1746] founded a small settlement that bore the name Gnadenhütten. The Indians later attacked this town, burned down the houses, and murdered ten to twelve of the Brethren. Even now one can see underneath bushes the gravestone that bears their names. The congregation at Gnadenhütten was not reestablished, but there are still individual farmers now living on the land that belongs to the Brethren.
Grave of the Brethren at Gnadenhütten
watercolor and pencil on paper
Following Maximilian, who had traveled on ahead of him, Bodmer also visited the site of the old Moravian mission at Gnadenhütten, where, according to an inscription on the large tombstone shown here, eleven colonists "lost their lives in a surprise from Indian warriors, November 24th, 1755."
In the evening Mr. Bodmer arrived, whom I had left behind to draw the waterfalls of the Solomon Creek, Mauch Chunk, and the Mahoning Valley. He brought along very precisely executed sketches of all these places. In the Mahoning Valley, he had visited the place where Gnadenhütten once stood and had sketched it, as well as the gravestone of the Brethren burned to death.
Susquehanna near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
watercolor on paper
Maximilian left Bethlehem on September 17 for Pittsburgh, passing through Harrisburg on the way. Bodmer followed the prince one week later. He executed this lyrical view of the Susquehanna River, again producing the visual equivalent of Maximilian's description of the scene-in this case, very likely depicting the Camelback Bridge over the river and City Island described by Maximilian below.
The Susquehanna is very wide, 603 of my paces on the bridge. It has an island right near the city so that a very long, enormous covered bridge with two tunnels, one for those coming, the other for those leaving, has been constructed. . . . From the bridge at Harrisburg, the view upriver is especially beautiful. Green wooded islands adorn the surface of the river, which is broad but shallow and, especially now during the dry season, would not permit navigation.
View of Pittsburgh
watercolor and pencil on paper
Bodmer's view of Pittsburgh shows the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which merge here to form the Ohio. His sketch conveys the impression of a dense, growing urban environment, sprawling up the hills to find room in new suburbs. The clouds of smoke shown rising from buildings beyond the bridge and the overall haze probably resulted from the ubiquitous coal fires.
Pittsburgh is a rather old, sprawling, but not very beautiful city. Since there are extensive bituminous coal deposits in the immediate vicinity, this fuel is very inexpensive here and everyone burns it. For this reason the whole region, the entire Ohio Valley, lies in a dark haze of smoke, and over this city it is as dense as it is in England. This smoke gives the buildings a dark, gloomy appearance.
The Prison in Pittsburgh
watercolor and pencil on paper
Public institutions such as the Pittsburgh penitentiary were on tourist itineraries as part of the American landscape of reform. Considered the most advanced in the world, these institutions attracted many foreign visitors, including Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens, as well as Maximilian. Bodmer's sketch is an early stage in the development of his final composition for the published engraving in the prince's Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832­1834.
We left Pittsburgh at eight o'clock in the morning, traveled over the large Allegheny bridge past the imposing prison, which resembles a fort (see Mr. Bodmer's sketch), toward the Ohio.
Economy, Rapp's Colony on the Ohio
watercolor on paper
While staying in Pittsburgh, Maximilian made periodic excursions into the countryside. The prince visited the neighboring settlement of Economy, the third American location of the Harmony Society, a religious communal sect founded by the German pietist George Rapp. When Maximilian visited in 1832, Economy was totally self-sufficient, complete with farms, industries, and cultural amenities (including a museum, a deer park, and an orchestra). Bodmer's watercolor reflects the ordered, serene existence of the town's inhabitants.
Finally we reach the district of Economy, which we soon recognize from the fine cultivation of its fields. . . . The entire society is said to own this land and all its produce in common, but old Rapp and his adopted son manage all of it and never give an accounting of their administration. This seems somewhat dictatorial, but one can hardly object to this arrangement, since everything seems well ordered and practical.
Gentlemen at Louisville
pencil on paper
Portland on the Ohio
watercolor on paper
In early October, Maximilian's party left Pittsburgh. They booked passage on several steamboats that would take them down the Ohio River to Mount Vernon, Indiana. En route, the travelers spent one night in Louisville, Kentucky, about whose inhabitants Maximilian acerbically commented in his diary. Bodmer's sketch of the Louisville "gentlemen" provides a perfect visual complement. The next day they boarded a steamboat at the nearby town of Portland, where docking facilities were located. Bodmer's finely detailed painting of Portland captures the crowded riverfront.
As is usually the case [at the inn in Louisville], idle gentlemen filled all the lower rooms and were encamped around the fireplace with their legs up in the air and their hands clasped behind their necks. . . . Here, as in all the cities of the United States, elegance is a primary concern of the residents. They place great importance on money and fine clothes, while they suffer boredom and lean their mostly empty heads against the walls as though they were very heavy.
Rockport on the Ohio
watercolor on paper
Ohio River near Rome
watercolor on paper
As the steamboat made its way downriver toward the destination of Mount Vernon, Bodmer sketched watercolor studies of the river, including the banks near Rome, Indiana, and the rocky shoreline at Rockport.
In the afternoon we reached . . . a village bearing the name Rome. . . . As it is a dark night, one anchors near the bank until the stars come out, since the moon does not rise until late. In the cabin various games begin; all the while great heat and innumerable cockroaches, which run around in all the beds and fall down on the table.
View of New Harmony
watercolor on paper
One of Maximilian's principal destinations in North America was the small utopian colony of New Harmony, Indiana, located on the Wabash River. The German pietist George Rapp founded New Harmony as a religious colony in 1814. The colony was later redeveloped as a social utopia and then as an important center for scientific research. Maximilian was forced by illness to spend five months there during the winter of 1832-1833. He took advantage of the unusual learning opportunities available in the tiny colony, including numerous consultations with the distinguished scientists in residence there. Bodmer's superb view of New Harmony features Rapp's imposing church that had been converted into a theater.
New Harmony was built here by Mr. Rapp (now at Economy) in a flat, wooded region, on the Wabash. . . . Since Rapp wished to move to another area, a rich Scot, [Robert] Owen, bought the entire property, which was very substantial. This [Mr.] Owen had his own unique religious and philanthropic views. . . . He did not have a high regard for religion; therefore the church constructed by Rapp remained empty and is now used as an amateur theater.
Confluence of the Fox River and the Wabash
watercolor on paper
While Maximilian was convalescing in New Harmony, Bodmer explored nearly every day along the Fox and Wabash Rivers. From such forays, he produced several magnificent landscapes. The present is one of his best, created during an excursion by boat with Maximilian in December to the mouth of the Fox River. Bodmer's art is also a document: his brilliantly observed rendering preserves a long-vanished environment that includes faint smoke rising from a keelboat, cattle drinking from the river, and-perched in a foreground tree-a half-dozen of the brightly colored, once numerous and now extinct Carolina parakeets.
The banks were covered with lofty, beautiful forest in which tall, huge Platanus [sycamore trees], with their broad branches, gleam snow-white in the densely entangled thicket. [Wintergreen cane] shoots upward in a dense mass, but here is grazed off by the cattle, which browse all around here day and night. . . . Mr. Bodmer searched for the location, already discovered earlier, where he had begun a beautiful view of the stream.
Lesueur, the Naturalist at New Harmony
watercolor on paper
Bodmer's portrait of Charles-Alexander Lesueur (French, 1778-1846) shows the eminent scientist about to hunt specimens for his natural history collection. Lesueur had a wide range of zoological interests and was highly respected for his studies in Australia as well as North America. He was also a scientific illustrator, who taught drawing in New Harmony and painted scenery for the local theatrical productions.
[Lesueur] is a unique person, already rather old, with a very deeply lined face. . . . His studio, a hall on one side of the empty church, is most curious. Directly before the entrance there is a view of New Harmony, painted after the manner of a theater setting that, with curtains, forms, so to speak, a small theater. . . . Elsewhere the owner's drawing and painting equipment and the various cartons he had collected on his journeys around the world. . . . We richly enjoyed looking over the sketches of various kinds.
The Fox River Near New Harmony
watercolor on paper
Since arriving in the United States, Bodmer had been looking for vistas unlike any he had seen in Europe. In the early months of his travels, he had been disappointed by the similarity of American and European scenery. But the wild forest around New Harmony, Indiana, was distinctly un-European-it was the type of landscape that he and Maximilian had come to America to record. This is another of the artist's superb renderings of the tangled sycamore trees along the Fox River.
Today Mr. Bodmer had made a beautiful sketch of the Fox River in a true wilderness area, and wild ducks had landed close to him while he was sketching, especially [wood ducks] and [mergansers].
The Wabash near New Harmony
watercolor on paper
The wild environment of the Fox and the Wabash Rivers was not far from the civilized village of New Harmony, Indiana. Many foreign visitors, Maximilian among them, were struck by the sudden transitions in the American landscape from the civilized to the wild. Perfectly echoing Maximilian's observations, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his travel diary Journey to America (1831-1832):
Just round a wood one sees the elegant spire of a clock tower, houses striking in their whiteness and cleanness, and shops. Two paces further on, the primeval and apparently impenetrable forest reclaims its dominion. . . . Those who have passed through the United States will find in this picture a striking emblem of American society. Everything there is abrupt and unexpected; everywhere, extreme civilization borders and in some sense confronts nature left run to riot. That is something one cannot conceive in France . . . [where] there is no district so thinly populated and no forest so completely left to itself, that the trees, when they have quietly come to an end of their days, fall at last from decay.
Backwoods Man and Woman on Horseback
pencil on paper
Courthouse at Mount Vernon
watercolor on paper
The prince's notes contain a wealth of detail about the inhabitants of the region around New Harmony, including the numerous settlers or "backwoodsmen." Bodmer may have made the sketch of a backwoods couple when settlers came to town to vote in the presidential election of 1832 (in which Andrew Jackson was re-elected). The second sketch shows the startling contrast between the formal red courthouse building of Mount Vernon and the settlers' simple cabins around it.
Since voting for the new president took place today, all the nearby planters were in Harmony on horseback. . . . Everywhere one saw the dirty farmers riding about in the rain in their ridiculous attire. Many wore plaid coats. . . . After these crude individuals had registered their votes, they did ample justice to the whiskey; it was asserted that there would be no lack of brawling and disorderly conduct.
Bon Pas on Green's Prairie
pencil on paper
Albion, Edwards County, Illinois
pencil and wash on paper
Late in November 1832, Bodmer journeyed by horseback beyond the Wabash into neighboring Illinois. He stayed several days in the county seat of Albion and visited the prairie settlement of Bon Pas, sketching the buildings at each place. Maximilian later visited the same area and wrote of his disapproval at the manner in which frontier settlement proceeded.
At several small log houses in the tall forest, people were busy clearing and cutting down the timber, and our boatman told us that this was Congress land (it belongs to the government), and that people cut this timber without permission of any kind and go unpunished. . . . Many settlers squat on other people's land and property, clear away the timber, and build log houses until they are discovered and driven off. This is what the wildernesses of Indiana and Illinois and their backwoodsmen are like.
Settler's Farm in Indiana
watercolor and pencil on paper
In their surveys of the region around New Harmony, Maximilian and Bodmer saw many small farms and settlements. The prince thought little of these raw clearings and crude cabins. Although Bodmer's depictions accurately record the roughness of the frontier structures, they are invested as well with human interest, as in this scene of a pioneer woman hanging laundry to dry.
We were now close to the cornfields of Mr. Maclure's tenants [near New Harmony], which we went around, and then came to a small log, or block, house. A rather poor-looking woman was occupied with household chores. Her children were gnawing on bones, probably from wild turkeys, and eating corn bread with them. Scrawny dogs were slinking about. The head of the house was absent.
View of a Farm on the Illinois Prairie
watercolor on paper
Bodmer produced this finished watercolor of an Illinois homestead after his return to Europe. The vastness of the Illinois prairie is underscored by the tiny farmer on horseback at left amid his plowed fields and by the simple log buildings that are dwarfed by the lowering sky. Bodmer's scene is an objective observation, while the prince saw frontier clearings as evidence of the destructiveness of European settlement.
[The] first undertaking of the colonists is always to destroy everything within reach. . . . This holds true also for forest trees. Soon there will be no useable trees and only completely devastated forests in the inhabited parts of North America. . . . One can only feel disgust and revulsion at the sight of such a coarse population streaming in with its notions of freedom, which an impotent government is unable to restrain, when one considers that these people show neither feelings of humanity nor moderation in their treatment of the Indians, as well as in their mistreatment of the animal creation.
The Mississippi near Ste. Geneviève
watercolor on paper
In mid-March 1833, Maximilian and Bodmer embarked from Mount Vernon, Indiana, on a steamer that would take them down the Ohio River and then up the Mississippi to St. Louis. Bodmer's lovely watercolor of a bend in the river near St. Geneviève, Missouri, provides a typical view of the scenery along the Mississippi.
The region around Ste. Geneviève has gentle hills in the background. The river is very broad here, a majestic stream. . . . Ahead to the right, the river seems to flow through a narrow opening because of the bend (See Mr. Bodmer's sketch). A picturesque situation.
Shot Tower below Herculaneum
watercolor and pencil on paper
Shot Tower near Herculaneum
watercolor and pencil on paper
Shot Tower near Selma
pencil on paper
The high banks of the Mississippi below St. Louis were evidently considered ideal for the construction of shot towers, used in the manufacture of lead ammunition. In the tower, molten lead was poured through a sieve with uniform holes and allowed to fall to the water below. The shot tower had to be sufficiently high for the drops to cool and solidify before reaching the bottom. Bodmer made at least three sketches of shot towers along the Mississippi.
Here in a shallow inlet lies the small village of Herculaneum, with gray wooden cottages, of which several are painted white. There is only one brick house among them. . . . Near the miserable huts, one sees several elegant ladies walking along the shore; the veils on their large hats flutter most fantastically in the wind!! Near the limestone hills to the left, a shot tower on the edge of the crag (see Mr. Bodmer's sketch).
Massika, Sauk Man
watercolor on paper
During the two weeks that Maximilian spent in St. Louis to prepare for the journey up the Missouri, Bodmer sketched several members of the Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) delegation. Bodmer painted Massika ("Turtle") in profile, carefully showing the man's short tuft of hair and long braid, the strings of shell beads on his ear, and his bold face paint. The inscription at lower left gives Massika's name, its meaning, his tribe, and the date and place of his portrait. Massika appears in two of the published engravings, including Vignette X (he is likely the figure at far left).
The area surrounding the eyes and ears is red, often also the cheeks; with others the entire head is completely red, except for a white spot on the forehead and a black one around mouth and chin; this gives them a dreadful appearance. . . . Their ears are pierced along the upper edge with three or four holes, and from them hang short strings of blue and white wampum, like tassels.
Wakusásse, Fox Man
watercolor and pencil on paper
Bodmer's fine three-quarter portrait of Wakusásse, a member of the Meskwaki (Fox) delegation to St. Louis, provides a detailed rendering of the hair ornament known as a roach. The roach is partially dyed with vermillion and ornamented with a feather as a mark of success in battle. Wakusásse also wears numerous shell or metal drop earrings and dramatic face paint.
Their heads are mostly shaven; only on the back of the head [do they have] a tuft of hair with a lock, which they braid in order to fasten to it an ornament of red and black horsehair, which in the Meskwaki language is Wauah-peuan. In the middle of this red lock of hair they fasten individual long feathers, black at the tips or completely black, with the white section often dyed red, too.
after Karl Bodmer
Charles Vogel, engraver
Saukie and Fox Indians, Vignette X from
Travels into the Interior of North America
engraving with aquatint and roulette, hand-colored; second state
On the day after Maximilian and his party arrived in St. Louis, the prince at last encountered his first Indians-a delegation from the Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) tribes. They had come to plead for the release of Black Hawk, a chief imprisoned after an 1832 uprising. The prince excitedly described their appearance in his journal. This engraving of the delegation appeared as a vignette in the published version of Maximilian's travel account.
In the morning a steamboat arrived with many Indians from the two tribes of Sauk (Sac) and Meskwaki (Fox). They have come to appeal for the release of Black Hawk and their compatriots in the Barracks. We hurried into the building near the water which had been assigned to them as temporary quarters. On the riverbank we already saw a crowd of people, and among the Europeans, strange-looking figures wrapped in red, white, and green blankets. My first view of them . . . astonished me greatly.
Maximilian, Prince of Wied
German, 1782­1867
Tagebuch (Journal), 1832-1834
Volume 1: May 1832-April 1833
This is Volume 1 of Maximilian's three-volume journal of his travels in North America. The page is typical of the prince's thorough recordkeeping and representative of his artistic abilities. He has recorded his experience of visiting the coal mines at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, including a charming drawing of the passenger rail carriage that took visitors to the top of the mountain where the mines were located. The tiny drawing on the page at right shows the profile of a wheel flange. The text below is the translation of this section.
From the Mauch Chunk Creek Valley, we climbed the steep path
. . . in great heat and found the railroad stages standing in readiness there on the track about 150 feet above the town. These are light, four-wheel carriages with eight seats which are open at the sides where poles support a roof. They have small iron wheels with a flange, by means of which they run on the track or rails, as indicated in 'b.' The coachman (driver) sits up front on the right and has a horn (post horn), in order to give signals.

rev. 5/5/08

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