A Fanciful View of Burlington Bay

In the early 1870s, armchair travelers snapped up copies of Picturesque America, a lavishly illustrated two-volume work celebrating the natural wonders of the United States. Edited by author and poet William Cullen Bryant, Picturesque America’s oversized volumes contain evocative descriptions and gorgeous images of — as its rather grandiose subtitle suggests — “The Mountains, Rivers, Lakes, Forests, Water-Falls, Shores, Cañons, Valleys, Cities, and Other Picturesque Features of Our Country.” It was the coffee table book of its time.

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Picturesque America (D. Appleton & Company, 1872, 1874), vol. 2, Local History Collection

Illustrator Harry Fenn (1837-1911) contributed numerous landscapes to the publication, including this delightfully over-the-top depiction of Burlington Bay:

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Picturesque America, vol. 2, page 273, Llewellyn Collection of Vermont History

Fenn played up the “picturesque” qualities of his scene, making the islands and rocky outcroppings in the bay much more craggy than in real life, turning the small lighthouse on Juniper Island into a castle-like structure, and playing up the size of the Adirondack Mountains in the background. It is questionable if local residents would recognize the bay from this fanciful view.

This illustration, and the publication that contains it, are currently on display in Champlain College’s Roger H. Perry Hall.

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