“Picturesque America”

Picturesque America was the most popular late nineteenth century guide to American scenery, with descriptions, illustrated by wood and steel engravings, of scenery in all parts of the country including the West. Published as a weighty two-volume set of books in 1872 and 1874 by Appleton and Company of New York and edited by poet/journalist William Cullen Bryant, it had a profound influence on the growth of tourism. Some of the best American landscape painters of the day were employed by Bryant to create illustrations, including the prolific Harry Fenn who provided the drawings for twenty five segments of the publication.

The significance of Picturesque America is summarized by Sue Rainey in Creating Picturesque America: “As the first publication to celebrate the entire continental nation, it enabled Americans, after the trauma of the Civil War, to construct a national self-image based on reconciliation between North and South and incorporation of the West.”