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The County Election

George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879
Oil on canvas
Made in
Columbia, Missouri, United States, North and Central America
Missouri, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 337
38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm)
framed: 49 1/4 x 63 3/16 in. (125.1 x 160.5 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Bank of America
Public Domain
Object Number
A large group of citizens gathers to place their votes in an election. Campaigning politicians anxiously press their party tickets toward individuals. One of the newest citizens, an Irish immigrant, is taking an oath that he had not voted elsewhere, just as one of the oldest, a Revolutionary War “76-er” veteran, is descending the steps. Merchants in top hats discuss the issues with laborers in shirtsleeves, an example of the rational exchange that sustains democracy. Other individuals present a less responsible and informed perspective. One drunken citizen, unable to stand, is nonetheless dragged to cast a vote. Another sits on a bench to steady his head, his clarity evidently lost in a brawl. Two boys on the ground play mumblety peg, a knife game that progressively increases in risk. George Caleb Bingham revealed what every American supportive of an election understands: that the democratic ideal must be embraced even though uniformed votes could prevail.
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