Samuel Adams Hudson (1813-circa 1894)

Samuel Adams Hudson (1813-circa 1894)

Born in Brimfield, Massachusetts, in 1813, Samuel Adams Hitchcock lost his father only ten years later, leaving his mother to raise their eight surviving children. Beyond this tragic event, not much is known of his childhood. In 1836, he and two of his younger brothers changed their surnames to Hudson for reasons one can only speculate as their mother did not remarry. Perhaps Samuel, who was working as a tailor in Boston while painting in his spare time, had cause to read and was inspired by Thomas Cole’s Essay on American Scenery, published in January of that year, in which the author opined that “the Hudson [River] for natural magnificence is unsurpassed.”[1]


[1] Thomas Cole, “Essay on American Scenery,” The American Monthly Magazine 1 (January 1836), 1–12

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In 1838, Samuel began to contemplate a project of painting a moving panorama of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and, after several sketching trips throughout the regions, this ambitious pursuit came to fruition in 1847 with the help of his brothers and another painter, George W. Cassidy. Hudson’s Great National Painting of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers measured ten feet high by a staggering four thousand feet long, and beginning in April of 1848 it was shown at venues in Louisville, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri (which interestingly dubbed the scenery as along the Hudson River); Cincinnati, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; New York City; and in Massachusetts at Springfield and Boston. Hudson’s moving panorama, accompanied by piano music and a narrator, is considered the earliest example capturing the grandeur of the Mississippi River and gave viewers the sense that they were aboard a vessel, taking in the sights as they sailed downriver. When shown in Boston, local advertisements described the scenery as, “all the chief cities, towns, villages, gigantic bluffs, Indian mounds and encampments, cotton, sugar and tobacco plantations, lagoons, animals, &c, upon their banks, and giving a most truthful delineation of the various kinds of river life and craft, arks, steamboats, coal,…wood, and cattle boats, presenting the diversified scenery of 12 different states.”[1] Sadly, the original panorama was destroyed by fire in 1849 while on exhibit in Troy, New York, yet, amazingly, Hudson and his assistants had thought ahead and made an exact copy, which later toured the major cities of Europe. Around this same period, the artist also created a panorama of the Hudson River from New York Bay to the mouth of the Mohawk River, which might explain the confusion as to which one was shown in St. Louis in 1848.


[1] Boston Daily Journal, October 28, 1848 (noted in Palmquist, Peter E. and Kailbourn, Thomas R., Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide, A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 336-337.

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