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Jolly Flatboatmen in Port

George Caleb Bingham, American, 1811–1879
Oil on canvas
Place made
Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Europe
Place depicted
Midwest, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 336
47 1/4 x 69 5/8 in. (120 x 176.8 cm)
framed: 61 1/8 x 83 3/4 x 5 3/8 in. (155.3 x 212.7 x 13.7 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
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Object Number
This painting depicts a flatboat docked at a wharf in St. Louis, where boatmen amuse themselves with homespun entertainment. The revelry is so lively that another flatboat has pulled alongside to observe it. George Caleb Bingham has organized the crowd in a pyramid, with the smiling dancer waving his red handkerchief at its apex. Though early 19th-century writers described flatboatmen as violent, rambunctious individuals living on the margins of society, Bingham’s rosy-cheeked river workers appear more mischievous than threatening
ctors of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association." St. Louis: R.P. Studley & Co., 1868, p. 14].

[3] John H. Beach gave "Jolly Flatboatmen in Port" to the St. Louis Mercantile Library along with several other paintings by Bingham (124:1944, 43:2001, 45:2001). It is unclear how or when Beach acquired the four paintings ["Thirty-fourth Annual Report of the Board of Direction of the Saint Louis Mercantile Library." St. Louis: Printed for the Association, 1880, p. 18-19].

[4] See note [3].

[5] The Saint Louis Art Museum purchased "Jolly Flatboatmen in Port" and "The County Election" (124:1944) from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association. Receipt dated November 9, 1944 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, November 2, 1944.
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