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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 widely published.
(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 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 11/17/2018.