H.H. Bennett with his camera on the shore of the Wisconsin River at Sugar Bowl geological formation, WHS Image ID 8264.
Visual Historian Who Made Wisconsin Dells Famous
More than a photographer, Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843-1908) was an inventive visual historian. His pioneering use of technology, combined with exquisite composition skills, created an enduring legacy for the Dells. His stereoscopic views of the Dells of the Wisconsin River attracted visitors from across the country, and truly made him the man who made Wisconsin Dells famous.
Pioneering, Inventive Photojournalist
H.H. Bennett embarked on his life as a photographer after an injury sustained in the Civil War permanently crippled his right hand, preventing him from becoming a carpenter. He did use carpentry skills, however, as he began a career as a photographer.
Purchasing a tintype studio in Wisconsin Dells (then Kilbourn City), he took his first stereographic landscape photographs of the rugged Wisconsin River dells in 1868. Constructing all aspects of the camera except for the lenses, he ventured out into the wooded landscape of the Dells and captured the area on film. He was one of the first photojournalists, using photographs to tell a story.
Celebrated 19th Century Landscape Photographer
H.H. Bennett is viewed as one of the ten best landscape photographers of the 19th century. While other photographers clung to their studios, Bennett developed a passion for landscape photography because, in his words, "It is easier to pose nature and less trouble to please." He developed the image of nature as a playground to be enjoyed, not feared."
H.H. Bennett's photography has been displayed in some of the most prestigious museums in the world and is prized by collectors.
Want to Learn More?
The Wisconsin Historical Society has an extensive collection of H.H. Bennett's original records and photographs. For more information, email the Society's Archives.
You can also view over 700 Bennett images on the Society's H.H. Bennett Online Gallery.