Mississippi River Views by Henry Bosse

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Bosse’s spectacular cyanotypes from a Survey of the Upper Mississippi have now entered the history of significant American photographs, and examples are in major museums and collections. There were made under the supervision of Alexander Mackenzie, of the Rock Island District, Army Corps of Engineers.

The great cyanotype album that brought the world’s attention to Bosse’s work was found in a house that had been inhabited by Mackenzie. These prints came from the same source. These are sepia gelatin silver (one albumen) prints.

The most interesting four views show the interior of the “floating palace,” the magnificent barge on which Mackenzie lived, in high style, while supervising the work. They show an aspect of the life on the Mississippi, and intimate details of Mackenzie’s life style.

There is a 5 x 5 1/4 inch photograph of his bedroom, with many details. A 5 x 7 1/4″ photograph shows his office on the barge, also with many details, and a 4 3/8″ x 7 1/2″ photograph shows the bathroom [!!] There is a 4 1/2 x 7 1/4″ photograph of the cook in the galley. This last is light, the others somewhat less so.

There are 3 views of working boats. There is a beautiful small (2 3/4 x 4 1/2 inch) print of the “Barnard” wintering beneath the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, with smoke coming from her stack. A 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch print shows the boat pulled up to shore at an ideal angle to show her details. There are bicyclists carefully arranged on shore. This is clean but a little light. Another shows two boats pulled up to shore, with figures, and a bridge behind. The forward boat is either the “Lucia,” named for Mackenzie’s daughter, or the “Elsie,” named for Montgomery Meigs’ daughter. The boat behind is the “Vixen,” later renamed the “Henry Bosse,” after the photographer.

2 views, from high angles, show various boats pulled up the bank of a canal, probably involving repair of flood damage to the wing dams that were an important aspect of Mackenzie’s work. Boats include the “Vixen” and the smaller “Alert,” and a 2-story “quarters boat” — that is a barge with a dormitory on it. These are 3 5/8 x 7 1/2 inch, and a little smaller.

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