Henry Hamilton Bennett
was a pioneering 19th century photographer who made the Wisconsin Dells
a world-famous tourist attraction.
Though Bennett would revolutionize photography with his invention of stop-action photography in 1888, it was not his first choice as a career. He planned on becoming a carpenter, but a civil war injury to his hand ended that goal.
Instead he moved to Kilbourn City, Wisconsin and started a photographic studio. Finding it difficult to make a living simply on portraits, Bennett began photographing the Wisconsin River and became one of the world's first landscape photographers.
The scenic sandstone cliffs of the river, numerous gorges, grottoes, and erosion-shaped rocks became his number one subject. He made thousands of photographs, many of them using dual cameras so that he could produce stereo-optical 3-D images. Many of these ended up as postcards which he sold from his shop.
Bennett also photographed many scenes of river life -- raftsmen taking lumber through the rapids, tourists onboard the paddle-wheel steamers, and even coaxed many neighboring Winnebago Indians (Ho-Chunk) to pose for pictures.
It's interesting to note that Bennett made nearly all of his own cameras -- many of them literally from cigar boxes. His pictures were often so innovative that many people thought they were nothing more than trick photography.
Kilbourn City was renamed Wisconsin Dells in 1931. In 1976 Bennett's studio was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.