The late John Banvard and Captain Jones Worden had their contributions to the rivers of America as an artist and captain, respectfully, eternally recognized on November 4, 2022 as the pair were inducted into the National Rivers Hall of Fame at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
Banvard (1815-1891) used his innate artistic talents to paint a “three-mile long” and 12-foot high masterpiece termed “Barnvard’s Panorama of the Mississippi River, Being the Largest Painting Ever Executed by Man.” The painting was a 400-day effort that took Barnvard from the mouth of the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico in a skiff in the early 1840’s, mapping every detail he saw along the way from towns, camps, boats, all the way to the plants along the riverbank. He brought his sketches back to his home in Louisville, Kentucky where he worked several years on the diorama, a final product featuring 38 scenes in total. After its premiere in his home state, Barnvard took his artwork to Boston, New York, and Washington before the allure caught international attention and landed him in London where the piece spent 20 weeks on display, including a command performance for Queen Victoria. In 1862, Barnvard revised his painting with scenes from the War of the Rebellion and the connection to naval engagements broadened the painting’s interest to a new audience. Barnvard took the remainder of his panorama to Watertown, South Dakota where he settled with his children before his passing in 1891. While there are no remnants of the grand painting, other works of Barnvard’s reside with the Minnesota Historical Society.
Captain Jones Worden
Captain Worden (1817-1901) had a career that spanned 30 years on at least seven notable steamboats on the Mississippi River. His record-setting exploits can be found in several distinguished works by experienced steamboatmen and well-established authorities on steamboating. He was a steamboat Captain through the Civil War between Memphis and St. Louis and boasted a career of many firsts and unprecedented records. Worden began his career at age 19 as the captain of the side-wheeler, The Chesapeake, between Detroit, Michigan and Buffalo, New York and continued service in the Great Lakes for another decade before moving to Mississippi steamers in Galena, Illinois in 1846. He captained a 40-mile rudderless exploit of the Key City and the Grey Eagle-Itasca race to St. Paul and was the captain of the Fanny Harris, first steamboat of the Dubuque, Wisconsin, and Minnesota Packet Company, in 1856. His tenure earned him the nickname “Master of the Key City” and the Fanny Harris became known as the “champion of the upper river” that “never lost the broom” to any of the nine steamers that challenged her to a race. Worden also set the record for his trip from St. Paul to St. Louis in two days, 21 hours and 49 minutes as captain of the Hawkeye State, in July 1867, a record Mark Twain noted in “Life on the Mississippi” to have never been beaten. Worden’s record-setting exploits can be found in several distinguished works by experienced steamboatmen and well-established authorities on steamboating.