Album of Professional Views of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition
N.p. (Kilbourn, Wisconsin?): [ca 1901]. Oblong octavo (6-1/2" x 9"). Bound album of 17 mounted silver-gelatin photographs, most 5" x 7" (two smaller) on heavy pasteboard mounts. Captioned (but one); unsigned; apparently the work of a talented amateur or possibly a professional photographer (see note below). Binding worn, with losses at spine ends and corners; internally quite good, though one photograph has fallen victim to the work of an infant graffiti artist (fortunately working in pencil; the image is not entirely defaced); another image, the first in the album, is slightly faded and aged. Overall Very Good and apparently complete as assembled.
Of the seventeen views, eight are of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The remainder (but for one, a view of Niagara Falls) are scenes in Wisconsin, which would appear to be the photographer's home. Though unsigned, the work is of a constistently high quality, printed from large-format negatives, suggesting a talented (and well-heeled) amateur working with a view camera. The only place-name referenced other than the Exposition is Kilbourn, Wisconsin, a mill town on the Wisconsin River that changed its name to Wisconsin Dells in 1931. Kilbourn was the home of the celebrated photographer and publisher of stereoviews, H.H. Bennett, and the Wisconsin views herein bear a very strong resemblance – both compositionally and in terms of overall quality – to Bennett's work. But while it is tempting to attribute these photographs to Bennett, the one biographical detail we have found in the album – an image captioned "Our Boys Playground" – positively eliminates Bennett from consideration; he had two young children at the time of these photos, but they were both girls.
Amateur 20th-century Exposition albums filled with small-format tourist snapshots are abundant, as are published views by professional photographers. But we have seen very few examples like this one: a hand-assembled album of exceptional, well-printed views, intended only for private consumption.
The photographs are all (but one) hand-captioned in ink, as follows:
1. "Court of Fountains" [Pan American Expo]
2. "The Narrows of the Wisconsin [River]"
3. "The Old Mill at Kilbourn, Wis."
4. "Streets of Venice, Pan Amer. Exp."
5. "Down the Lagoon" [Pan American Expo]
6. "Triumphal Bridge, from Illinois Building" [Pan American Expo]
7. "Niagara above the Falls"
8. "Ohio and Illinois Buildings, Pan Amer Exp."
9. "On the Wisconsin River"
10. "Our Wisconsin Farm Buildings"
11. "On the Pan Amer. Exposition Grounds"
12. "Temple of Music where President McKinley was Shot"
13. "The Midway, Pan Amer. Exp."
14. "On Littler's Creek"
15. "The Jaws of the Dells of the Wisconsin" [with view of The Dell Queen, a tourist steamboat]
17. "Our Boys Playground"