This was a very special weekend at H.H. Bennett Studio, they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary and we had to be a part of it. It was our first time visiting and we were in for a treat! Admission is $7 for adults, but waived on this weekend. They always accept donations. There were costumed interpreters, even Ho-Chunk music and dancing since H.H. Bennett was kind to them and allowed him to photograph them. Just outside of the right-side building is a rotating picture display.
H.H. Bennett was a pioneer in photography, he invented the “snapper” in 1878. You no longer had to sit perfectly still for 5 minutes or more to get a portrait taken. He took pictures all over the Dells with his new technique. His most famous shot was his son Ashley jumping at Stand Rock. It took him 17 tries to get this shot. Bennett’s work helped bring people to the Dells and the tourism industry was born there!
Just before a Dells Boat Tour left the dock, Bennett would take a picture of the group in the boat and have the picture developed and printed by the time the group came back. It took A LOT longer to do the tour in the 1880’s, you had to help row the boat! Now it only takes two hours and the crew does all the work.
The tradition continues now, we got our picture taken just before the tour we did three days later.
We went inside, you could get many souveniers, including prints of Bennett’s famous photos. The docents near the museum entrance greeted and welcomed us. We knew this was going to be fun! The studio continues to support the Ho-Chunk Nation by selling their jewelery and books.
I hear drums! A couple of representatives of the Ho-Chunk are going to be performing some dance and song for the guests. Two talented children showed us what they have learned so far about their culture’s traditions.
There was much to see inside the museum, new displays and really liked how the older building showed how his studio probably originally looked. Also the history of cameras and what ordinary people used in times past, including myself!
Bennett’s descendants are still involved with the museum today. Betsy Grant, Bennett’s Great-Granddaughter, was on hand to tell us about his many accomplishments. It was great meeting you Betsy!
3-D display using Bennett’s photos
Stereo viewers, precursor to Viewmasters.
The Bennett Studio, and displays inside.
I had my picture taken with H.H. Bennett himself :) Al wasn’t nearby at the time.
On the 2nd floor they showed 40 minutes of silent film that Miriam Bennett shot from the 1920’s through the 60’s. These excerpts are Broadway Street scenes from the 20’s, 50’s and some Ho-Chunk dancing. I added some music to the movies.
We had a great time learning about this great Photographer. Nearby is the house where he lived, on 825 Oak Street. The season for visiting here is usually early May through late October.