Ohio History Journal

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Professor of English, Washington University

On the 8th of April 1840 the St. Louis Missouri Republican an-

nounced that "Mr. C. Wild, of this city, proposes to publish in

the course of a few weeks, a set of views of this city. . . . The

paintings from which the engravings will be taken are ready for

examination at his painting office on Locust Street between Main

and Second Streets, to which the attention of the public is invited."

All those paintings have disappeared, but the lithographs from

them mark the beginning of that notable set of early western views,

The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated, now the rarest as well as

the most pictorially important lot of prints for the St. Louis area.1

Of the early life of John Caspar Wild almost nothing is known.

A. H. Sanders, who knew the artist in the last years of his life in

Davenport, Iowa, identified him as a native of Zurich, Switzerland,

who as a young man had lived in Paris for fifteen years before he

emigrated to the United States.2 His known art-life in America

began in Philadelphia in 1831 when four uncolored panoramic views

of that city, taken from the State House looking north, south, east,

and west, drawn on stone by Wild, were published by J. T. Bowen.3

By 1835 (or possibly two years earlier) he was living in Cin-

cinnati. The Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio in that

city owns five water colors signed by Wild and dated by them "about


1 For special courtesies and assistance in assembling these facts about John Caspar

Wild I wish particularly to thank Virginius C. Hall, director of the Historical and

Philosophical Society of Ohio (Cincinnati); Mary Bartlett Cowdrey, curator of the

Smith College Museum of Art; the Old Print Shop of New York; the late John H.

Bailey, director of the Davenport Public Museum, and W. E. Whittlesey, secretary

of that museum (Davenport, Iowa); R. N. Williams 2d, director of the Historical

Society of Pennsylvania; Massey Trotter of the Print Room, New York Public Library;

Charles van Ravenswaay, director, and Marjory Douglas, curator, of the Missouri

Historical Society (St. Louis); Margaret Scriven, librarian, and Alfred F. Hopkins

and H. Maxson Holloway, former and present curators of the Chicago Historical

Society; Clarence E. Miller, librarian of the Mercantile Library (St. Louis); Lucile

Kane, curator of manuscripts, Minnesota Historical Society; Boyden Sparkes of

New York; and Arthur C. Hoskins and Stratford Lee Morton of St. Louis.

2 Add H. Sanders wrote the sketch of Wild's life which appears in Franc B. Wilkie,

Davenport Past and Present (Davenport, 1858), 307-310.

3 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania owns a set of these lithographs; they

measure eight and one-quarter inches by twelve and one-half.