Henry Hamilton Bennett

H. H. Bennett(Jan 15, 1843 – Jan 1, 1908) was a photographer famous for his pictures of the Dells of the Wisconsin River and surrounding region taken between 1865 and 1908. The popularity of his photographs helped turn the city of Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin into a major tourist destination.

H. H. Bennett was born in Farnham, Lower Canada, but was raised in Brattleboro, Vermont. In 1857, at the age of 14, Bennett moved with his father and uncle to Wisconsin. The group settled in Kilbourn City, today known as Wisconsin Dells, and Henry worked as a carpenter in the town. After the outbreak of the American Civil War, Bennett joined the army and fought in the Battle of Vicksburg before being severely wounded by the accidental discharge of his own gun. After the war, the wound prevented Bennett from returning to carpentry, so in 1865 he bought the Kilbourn City photography studio operated by Leroy Gates and began a career as a photographer. Shortly afterward, in 1866, he married Francis Douty, and the couple eventually had three children. Later, after Francis died (in 1884), he remarried Evaline Marshall in 1890.

Due to the low demand for portraits in the area, Bennett set his sights on landscape photography. His training as a carpenter served him well. Bennett made all of his own equipment except for the glass lenses in his cameras. He built himself a portable darkroom, and then towed it, his camera, and other necessary equipment with him across the local countryside taking pictures. He didn’t have to go far to find impressive scenery, for the Wisconsin River Dells, a gorge with numerous sandstone formations, was just outside Kilbourn City. Bennett loaded a boat with his photographic equipment and took many pictures of the Dells. Realizing that the three-dimensional aspect of the rock formations would be lost in two-dimensional photographs, he began creating stereoscopic images that allowed viewers to see the Dells in three dimensions. Bennett made his first stereoscopic photo in 1868, and they soon became very popular, being sold in cities across the United States.