John Sartain (1808-1897) after a painting by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), The County Election, 1854. Mezzotint and engraving. Signed in plate, l.l.: “Painted by G.C. Bingham”. Signed in plate, l.c.: “Entered According to act of Congress in the year 1854 by G.C. Bingham, in the Clerks Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York”. Signed in plate, l.r.: “Engraved by John Sartain”. Gift of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process
William Hogarth (1697-1764), Four Prints of an Election, 1755-58. Plate III: The Polling, February 1758. Third state. Graphic Arts, GC113 William Hogarth Collection
Not unlike William Hogarth in the 18th century, George Caleb Bingham painted a raucous 19th century scene presenting county politics, both good and bad. Although it is not recorded in the picture, we know that he was depicting an 1850 election in Saline County, Missouri, where he lived.
Neither African Americans nor women could vote in this election. In fact, there was no voter registration at all but any white male, conscious or unconscious, could participate. Each man had to swear on the Bible that he hasn’t already voted and then, speak his choice to the judge. Caucusing and drinking are all taking place nearby.
The man seated is the painter George Bingham himself, making sketches.