George Caleb Bingham

One of America’s great 19th century artists, Bingham is famous
for his portraits and scenes of river life and politics. He built a Federal-style house and lived in Arrow Rock intermittently through the1840s. Fortunately for us, in an age, before photography existed, George Caleb Bingham recorded for us the images of his Missouri.


Early 19th century

It was the first half of the 19th century and the American Frontier beckoned to those who dreamed of the new beginnings and better life that reportedly lay west of the Mississippi River. The Henry Bingham family, including their son George Caleb, of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was among the hardy souls hoping for a better life. In 1819, they moved to the burgeoning town of Franklin, Missouri. In just a handful of years, Franklin disappeared into the Missouri River almost as quickly as it had been created. Undeterred in their quest to settle, displaced residents, including the Binghams, helped found nearby Arrow Rock in 1829.

Bingham’s Home

George Caleb Bingham would grow into manhood in Arrow Rock. Newly married to his first wife Sarah Hutchinson, he bought a lot and built his first home here in 1837. The house still stands at the corner of High and First Streets and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Although Bingham would travel extensively in the United States and Europe during the decades to follow, he called Arrow Rock home.

The 1930s

Beginning in the 1930s there was a renewed appreciation for his work. Today Bingham is counted among the greatest American painters of the 19th century. Fortunately for us, in an age before photography existed, George Caleb Bingham recorded for us the images of his Missouri.

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