Henry Lewis

Birth: 1819


"Professor" Henry Lewis (1819–1904) was a self-taught American artist and showman, best known for his paintings of the American West. He was born in Newport or Scarborough, Kent County, England, on January 12, 1819. His family emigrated about 1833 to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was apprenticed to a carpenter. At age seventeen, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he worked as a carpenter and scenery painter at the St. Louis Theatre.

Between 1846 and 1848, he sketched and painted hundreds of scenes of the Mississippi River. These included rare views, such as the Morman Temple at Nauvoo, Illinois (burned 1848); and the great St. Louis Fire of 1849. He later developed his sketches into a giant moving panorama – 12 feet by 1,300 feet – which was unrolled, with music and narration, before theater audiences in the United States and Europe.

He settled in Germany in 1854, and published a book with eighty illustrations based on his panorama: The Illustrated Mississippi: From the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico (1857). He died in Dusseldorf, Germany.


Arrington, Joseph Earl, “Henry Lewis' Moving Panorama of the Mississippi River,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Summer, 1965), p. 239.

Cook, John Graham, “Artist Henry Lewis: The Case of the Falsified Résumé,” Minnesota History, Vol. 57, No. 5 (Spring, 2001), pp. 238-243.

American Art Annual, Volume 5. MacMillan Company. 1905. p. 121.

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