Godfrey Nicholas Frankenstein 1820 - 1873
Frankenstein Cliff and Trestle in Crawford Notch
Story by Scotty Mallett - Railroad Historian
Godfrey N. Frankenstein was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1820. He and his family fled and immigrated to America in 1831 eventually settling in Ohio. The 1830’s wave of emigration from Germany was caused chiefly by economic hardships, including unemployment and crop failures. Many Germans also left to avoid wars and military service. In some cases, government entities encouraged poor citizens to emigrate. Godfrey had 3 siblings, all of whom became artists.
At the age of 13 he became a sign painter and at the age of 19 was a portrait painter. In 1841 he founded and was the first president of the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts.
When he was 24, in 1844, he went to Niagara Falls. The grandeur of the Falls impressed upon him a new direction. Over a nine year period he would paint hundreds of scenes of the Falls all from different perspectives. Beginning in 1853 he then began a five year process to transfer the sketches to canvas. He picked 80 to 100 good drawings and copied each one to single panels that stood at least eight feet high. The end product was a roll of canvas that when unfurled was nearly 1000 feet long. Frankenstein cleverly juxtaposed scenes from different years to show the changes. In 1858 he began to show them to audiences, mostly in New York City, one at a time, like a moving picture, telling a story in the process. At fifty cents per person to see the show it was a success beyond his expectations.
In 1867, Frankenstein traveled to Europe and spent two years abroad painting many mountain landscapes. Below, "The Mill Pond" in Ohio
Godfrey had a great love of the White Mountains and when traveling there he stayed with Dr. Samuel Bemis (1793–1881) at his stone cottage in Crawford Notch, later known as the Inn Unique and currently The Notchland Inn, and he formed a friendship with Bemis.
Dr. Bemis owned most of the Crawford Notch at that time and named the cliffs and the gulf below after his friend Frankenstein. It is said that Mr. Frankenstein painted many White Mountains scenes yet these paintings are hard to find.
Frankenstein would die in 1873 at his home in Springfield, Ohio. Two years later, in 1875, when the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad built the Railroad through Crawford Notch the trestle that stands today was named Frankenstein Trestle.
Godfrey Frankenstein's 1848 Painting of "Mount Washington Over Tuckerman's Ravine" can be found at this link.