Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Artists, Writers, and Musicians

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J. P. Doremus

During the 1860's, J. P. Doremus was a successful commercial and portrait photographer with two photo galleries in Patterson, New Jersey. In the spring of 1874, Doremus conceived of the novel idea of building a photo gallery which would float down the Mississippi River. Putting his sons in charge of his New Jersey galleries, Doremus headed for St. Paul, Minnesota. There, below St. Anthony's Falls, he contracted with a boatyard to build a floating photo gallery which he aptly named Success.

Doremus' plan was to spend 4 years going from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico photographing steamboats, waterfronts, bridges, lumberyards, log rafts, and river towns. Doremus would then convert these images to stereo card views which he described in a short work entitled "Floating Down the Mississippi" (1877). The 4,000 images that Doremus made remain today as some of the best visual documentation of the river and the lifestyles it supported during the 19th century.

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