Iowa City – Through The Eyes Of George Yewell.

In the 1850’s, there were two creative artists connected with Johnson County. Two young men who gave us our first ‘pictures’ of Iowa City. One used a sketch pad, the other – a camera. Allow us here to show you the beautiful fruits of their labor. On this page, we’ll see our fair city through the sketches of…

George H. Yewell, age 11, moved to Iowa City with his mother in 1841. Over the next decade, as George was growing up, so was Iowa City. As a young man, Yewell loved exploring the open space around his childhood home, and when he turned eighteen (1848), he began journaling, bringing story and art together on one page. In the fall of that same year, George was inspired by a local news story, taking his interest in art and sketching his first political cartoon. One which poked fun at a local pastor who decided to take the law into his own hands by removing a church bell from its steeple. Read more here.

By the early 1850’s, George and his artwork were starting to get recognized, and in 1851, Charles Mason, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, paid for George to begin studying art at the National Academy of Design in New York. During this time, the eastern Iowa banking firm of Cook, Sargent & Downey commissioned Yewell to produce twelve sketches for their proposed map of Iowa City. Under the auspices of the firm of Bryan and Millar, the decorative map – Iowa City And Its Environs – rolled off the presses in 1854 – giving us a wonderful overview of our city as it appeared in the mid-1850’s.

Click here to read more about Clinton Street in the 1850’s.

“A Distant View of Iowa City” by George H. Yewell (1855).

In 1855, George took his sketchpad north of the city, giving us these two beautiful classics.

“Walter Terrell’s Mill near Iowa City” by George H. Yewell (1855). Click here to read more about Walter Terrell’s mill.

We stand amazed at these early sketches of Iowa City and offer a tip of the old hat to George H. Yewell – Iowa City’s master artist! Click here to read more about George H. Yewell.


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Iowa City and its Environs – 1854, J.H. Millar, G.H. Yewell artwork, Digital Library – University of Iowa

Iowa City sketches, George H. Yewell, Digital Library – University of Iowa

Clinton Street sketch, George H. Yewell, Digital Library – University of Iowa


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