BODMER, Karl (1809-1893)
Penitentiary near Pittsburgh
[Vig. 6] Paris, Coblenz and London: [1839-1842]. Aquatint engraving by Lucas Weber after Bodmer, proof on india paper mounted, blindstamp. Some spotting to mount. Sheet size: 12 1/2 x 18 1/4 inches. Plate mark: 9 7/16 x 13 1/2 inches.
A rare India proof. Bodmer made this fine sketch of the prison near Pittsburgh during the traveler's stay of ten days in and around Pittsburgh in September 1832. Prince Maximilian and Dreidoppel had reached Pittsburgh around mid-night on 26 September. They took rooms at the exchange Hotel and were soon joined there by Bodmer. Maximilian described Pittsburgh as `a rather old city of vast extent' and they took some time in exploring the area. Making periodic excursions out into the surrounding countryside, eventually leaving on 8 October. This penitentiary was considered a model prison, and was touted as an example for Europeans.
Karl Bodmer's images show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian's servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. They arrived in Boston in July 1832, traveled on to Philadelphia, where they stayed with Napoleon Bonaparte's elder brother Joseph. From here they headed west across Pennsylvania across the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh and the Ohio country, visiting all the important German settlements en route. Their most important stop on their route west was at the utopian colony of New Harmony in Indiana. The Prince spent five months there in the company of some of the countrry's leading scientific men, and studying all the relevant literature on backcountry America. On 24 March 1833 the party reached St. Louis, Missouri, and the start of the journey into Indian country.
Graff 4648; Howes M443a; Pilling 2521; Sabin 47014; Wagner-Camp 76:1.