The Great American Hall of Wonders

GBP £40.00



ISBN: 978-1-904832-97-3

256 Pages

292 x 241 mm (9 ½ x 11 ½ in)

80 colour and 56 b&w illustrations

In association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

September 2011


A vividly illustrated survey of the American ingenuity that energised all aspects of 19th-century society, from the painting of landscapes and scenes of everyday life to the planning of scientific expeditions and the development of new mechanical devices.

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The Great American Hall of Wonders is a stunning tribute to the pioneering and inventive spirit that symbolises America. It focuses on six iconic objects that inspired the American imagination: the buffalo, the giant sequoia, and Niagara Falls (symbolising vast natural bounty), the gun, the railroad, and the clock (representing all things mechanical and the purposeful use of time). Each of these served as cultural lightning rods, sparking creativity across a wide swathe of American society. Visions of buffalo herds, railroad trestles, enormous trees, and Winchester rifles engaged not only artists, scientists, and inventors, but also poets, educators, farmers, chaplains, and members of Congress.

Each of the six themed chapters comprises an essay and a selection from over 130 illustrations. These include works by pre-eminent artists Winslow Homer, John James Audubon, Thomas Eakins, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole as well as rare prints, survey photographs, zoological and botanical illustrations, patent models, and engineering diagrams.

Author biography

Claire Perry was a guest curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her work focuses on the art and cultural history of the United States in the nineteenth century. Before working for the Smithsonian, she served as curator of American art at the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. She is the author of Young America: Childhood in Nineteenth-century Art (2005).

Table of contents

  1. Foreward
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. The Hall of Wonders
  5. Democratic Time
  6. Niagara Falls
  7. The Peacemaker
  8. The Buffalo
  9. A Locomotive People
  10. The Big Tree
  11. Epilogue
  12. Notes
  13. List of Illustrations
  14. Selected Bibliography
  15. Index