Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Artists, Writers, and Musicians

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Henry Bosse

Henry Bosse was a German born draftsman who came to America in 1865. After a stint as a stationer in Chicago, Bosse came to work for the Chicago office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, transferring to St. Paul, MN and finally Rock Island, IL.

Congress had authorized a 4.5 foot channel from St. Paul to St. Louis. The Corps of Engineers was reshaping the 700 mile stretch of the river with wing dams, walls of rock on either side of the river that pushed the river to the center, quickening the current and allowing the main flow to scour its own channel.

Throughout the 1880's and 1890's, Bosse captured this dramatic transformation of the river on glass plate negatives, printing his pictures as blue cyanotypes in oversized albums. These photographs, numbering over 300, showed the islands and banks, wing dam construction, knobs and bluffs, vegetation, fields, and bridges along the Upper Mississippi.

Bosse also produced bridge drawings, worksite sketches, riverboat plans, and maps, including the "Map of the Mississippi River from the falls of St. Anthony to the junction of the Illinois River." But Bosse's historic photographs of the transformation of the Upper Mississippi are certainly his most lasting contribution. Henry Bosse was a virtual unknown before the 1990 auction of an album of blue cyanotype prints of historic river views. But after the sale, Sotheby's of New York noted that the "sumptuous blue studies awed everyone...(and) sparked a wave of Bosse interest, not only among the bidders at the auction, but across the United States."

Inducted in 1998.

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