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Henry Worrall was born in Liverpool, England, on April 14, 1825, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1835. He spent his boyhood in Buffalo, New York, and Cincinnati, Ohio. While living in Cincinnati he achieved a local reputation as a guitar player and teacher, and as a composer of guitar pieces. One of his compositions, "Sevastopol," which he sold to a Cincinnati publisher for $15, subsequently became exceedingly popular and sold thousands of copies. He settled in Topeka, Kansas, in 1868.
Despite having had no formal training as an artist, Worrall began creating illustrations of past Western life that were published in numerous publications, including Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. He gained his greatest fame as the illustrator of two major books of Western history -- McCoy's Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade and W.E. Webb's Buffalo Land.
Illustrator of Historic Events
Most of Worrall's illustrations in Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper concerned events in Kansas history. The most important of these were:
"The John Brown Monument, Osawatomie, Kansas," (September 22, 1877) drawn in connection with the dedication of the John Brown monument on the twenty-first anniversary of the battle between Pro-slavery and Free-State men;
"The First Public Inauguration of a Governor in Kansas, January 13, 1879--The State-House in Topeka," (February 8, 1879) showing Governor John P. St. John delivering his inaugural address on the east steps of the State House;
"The Colored Exodus--Scenes at
Topeka, Kansas," (July 5, 1879) showing the terminal
station in Topeka arranged to receive the immigration of
thousands of emancipated slaves from the South looking to
homestead land in western Kansas;
"Departure of the 'Corn Train' From Wichita, Kansas," (April 5, 1884) showing a trainload of corn being shipped to victims of flooding in the Ohio River Valley in thanks for help sent to Kansans during the grasshopper infestation of 1874; and,
"The Grand Rush at Noon of
September 16th," (September 30, 1893) recording the
start of the largest land rush in United States history,
the Cherokee Strip Run. Many artists and illustrators
recorded this event, but Worrall's drawings were the most
(all of the above were printed in Harper's Weekly)
Events in Colorado, New Mexico and general western history were also illustrated by Worrall. Important works in these areas include:
"Through the Veta Pass--The Ascent on Dump Mountain--Grade, 217 Feet Per Mile," (Harper's, September 15, 1877);
"Assembly of Races on Plaza of Las Vegas. Celebration at Las Vegas, New Mexico, the Terminus of the Railroad," (Leslie's, August 9, 1879);
"Scenes in Santa Fe, New Mexico," (Harper's, September 13, 1879); and,
"Royal Gorge in Grand Canyon of the Arkansas," (Leslie's, April 17, 1880).
Illustrator of Books on Western History
Historic Sketches of the Cattle
Trade, by Joseph McCoy, was
published in Kansas City in 1874. One of the most
valuable accounts of the cattle trade, the book included
numerous illustrations by Worrall. Most of the
illustrations are full page and depict various aspects of
ranching, cattle drives, the packing house industries,
and life in cattle towns. Although there may be some
question as to the absolute accuracy of Worrall's
drawings, they remain among the very few contemporary
depictions of life on the cattle trails in the 1860's and
1870's. (The picture below was originally captioned
"Winter Herding Upon the Upper Arkansas
River--Dennis Sheed's Camp.")
Buffalo Land, by W.E. Webb,
told the story of a group of adventurous individuals
living on the Great Plains of Kansas and Colorado, and
included several cartoons and caricatures created by
Worrall. Although the general storyline was a work of
fiction and most of Worrall's illustrations were intended
to impart humor, the characters traveled through a real
land where characteristics and landmarks were accurately
described. It also made frequent reference to real events
and circumstances, including the demise of Native
Americans. (The illustration at below was captioned
"Unnaturalized Indian" (left) and
"Naturalized Indian" (right),.)
Illustrator for Local Publications
The illustration for which Worrall
achieved his greatest local fame was a caricature
entitled "Drouthy Kansas," which originally
appeared as the cover page of the November, 1869, issue
of Kansas Farmer. It was drawn when the
reputation of Kansas was still suffering from the drought
of 1860, despite the fact that Kansas had been enjoying
heavy rains and good crops for several years. The
caricature shows men climbing ladders and using hatchets
to cut ears of corn from huge stalks, watermelons so big
that two men could stand on them, sweet potatoes that
required a derrick to lift them from the ground, and
wheat fields yielding 50 bushels to the acre. In the
middle ground a river is shown swollen with rain coming
down in sheets, with a clearing sky and rainbow in the
background. "Drouthy Kansas" proved immensely
popular and subsequently appeared in Resources of
Kansas, published in 1871 as a handbook to attract
settlers to Kansas.
Worrall also created illustrations for The Rocky Mountain Tourist, a publication issued by the Santa Fe Railroad to attract the tourist trade. A number of editions of this booklet were issued, all of which contained sketches by Worrall.
Another major group of Worrall illustrations can be found in the Reports of the (Kansas) State Board of Agriculture for the years 1875, 1876, and 1877-1878. Most of these illustrations are of Kansas towns and cities, but the illustrations for the 1876 edition included sketches of the exhibits, displays and galleries in the Kansas-Colorado building at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Worrall also played an active role in the preparation of exhibits for the Exhibition.
In addition to the publications above, Worrall illustrations appeared in dozens (if not tens of dozens) of state, county and local historical and promotional publications. He also produced large lithographic posters for use as advertising for state and county fairs.
"Recorder of Kansas"
As one of the most prolific artists in Kansas during his time, Worrall was responsible for "recording" many people, places, things and events that would otherwise have been lost to history, at least to visual history.
Henry Worrall died in Topeka, Kansas, on June 20, 1902.
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This page was last updated on 05/20/2017.