Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Around the World in Search of the Antarctic Continent

When Charles Wilkes' U.S. Exploring Expedition returned from its search for the Antarctic continent in 1842, it inspired the creation of an 11,000 square foot panoramic mural that toured the country. This manuscript was the script for seaman Charles Erskine's lecture given while the panorama was scrolled in front of an audience at the Roxbury Mechanic's Institute in Roxbury, Massachusetts. It attests to the public appetite for exploration stories and the 19th-century love of panoramas as popular entertainment.

After its useful life on the touring circuit was over, the panorama was sold in 1892 to the Revere Beach Scenic Railway and installed in one of their tunnels.  It has since disappeared. The only surviving remnant is this manuscript description. Among the geographic subjects discussed are: Estroza Pass, Isle of Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, Andes, St. Lorenzo Island, Tongataboo, Antarctic Continent, Henry's Island, and Cooks Bay.  The manuscript also contains extracts from press notices of Erskine's appearance.

To see it, ask for Stef Manuscript 257.

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