HENRY LEWIS' "Great National Work"
Each producer in turn claimed to be the originator of the colossal idea for a travel picture of the mighty Mississippi. Chief among these ambitious workers was Henry Lewis, an Englishman, carpenter by trade, who arrived in St. Louis in 1836. More than a dozen years later Lewis declared that he had told Banvard of his brilliant concept and that the latter had then rushed a picture to completion. However true this may be (there is no way to resolve these conflicting claims), with Lewis we come to a more substantial knowledge of the making of a panorama and of the business arrangements necessary for production.1
Like Banvard, Lewis (born in 1819) was a self-made artist. For a number of years he worked as carpenter and cabinetmaker in St. Louis. By the middle 1840's, however, he had certainly set up as an artist, for on March 25, 1845, the Missouri Republican referred to him as "a landscape painter of more than ordinary merit." He was then sharing a studio with James F. Wilkins, a portrait painter, who presently was