Voting in the Young Republic: George Caleb Bingham's "The County Election"
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Every four years American citizens go to the polls to elect a president of the United States. At the same time, they will vote for a whole slate of state and local officials. This month EDSITEment celebrates the voting process, which is so central to the American system of democracy, with a special feature on The County Election by Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879).
Bingham is famous for his images of frontier life and commerce along the great Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers. In works such as Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (1845) and The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846), he endeavored to capture and memorialize a way of life that—despite its manifest energy and vitality—was vanishing before his eyes.
The artist grew up on the Missouri frontier during the period when Andrew Jackson and his party dominated American political life. Jackson who is one of the few presidents whose name is used to characterize a whole era in American history was the subject of another EDSITEment feature; the classic description of the political, religious, commercial, cultural and social life of this period is contained in Democracy in America. Bingham however belonged to the Whig party, which was founded in opposition to the Democratic policies of Jackson. He made speeches in support of the Presidential candidate William Henry Harrison and ran for office himself as a Whig candidate