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H.H. Bennett & Civil War Cycloramas

A unique set of H.H. Bennett photographs recorded two Civil War cycloramas created in the 1880s, depicting the Battle of Gettysburg (specifically Pickett's Charge) and the Battle of Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga, Tennessee). A cyclorama is a panoramic display of huge oil-on-canvas paintings mounted on the walls inside a large round building built especially for it, with a viewing platform in the center. These massive paintings were given a more realistic quality from the actual objects, landscaping, and life-size figures placed in front of them. The cyclorama was a primitive precursor to today's IMAX, giving the feeling of being in the middle of a scene. Most cycloramas depicted historic events such as great battles, religious themes or scenes from great works of literature. The Bennett photographs document this popular early form of entertainment that preceded the advent of motion pictures and television.

The Battle of Gettysburg cyclorama, one of only a few that survive in this country, is preserved at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. View Bennett's photos of it.

The Battle of Missionary Ridge cyclorama no longer exists, but you can view it here.

The Wisconsin Historical Society also holds some preliminary studies painted for the cycloramas and several photographs of the artists.

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