Panorama Mania

The other day I was intrigued by a podcast that mentioned John Banvard. Banvard was an American artist, who rode up and down the Mississippi River drawing and drawing and drawing, until his picture was nearly as long as the river itself. (Or half a mile, actually.) As you might do with a painting that enormous, Banvard put it in motion. He rigged up a mechanism and put his moving panorama to music, so people could enjoy a view of the Mississippi River they were always hearing so much about.

Banvard even got to take his painting to England to visit the queen! While he was overseas, he painted more panoramas and became more famous. Back in the States, he opened a museum of oddities and was rolling in the dough for a while, but ultimately couldn’t compete with PT Barnum, who had dishonesty on his side. That doesn’t mean The Greatest Showman isn’t a fantastic movie though.

Sadly, Banvard’s famous Mississippi River panorama was cut up and nobody knows where any of the pieces are today. We are in a bit of luck, though! The actual Mississippi River is still around and available for public viewing! I bet your phone will even take a panoramic shot for you!

John Banvard, ca. 1855.

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