SOURCE: Saint Louis Art Museium

Saint Louis Art Museium

March 17, 2015 12:52 ET

Missouri Children Spearheaded 1970s Campaign to Save Priceless Works of Art

George Caleb Bingham Drawings on Display at Saint Louis Art Museum Through May 17

ST. LOUIS, MO--(Marketwired - Mar 17, 2015) -  Nearly forty years ago, the schoolchildren of Missouri raised funds to save the priceless drawings of George Caleb Bingham. As a result, their efforts can be seen in the exhibition, Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River, on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum through May 17. The largest comprehensive display of Bingham's river paintings and drawings ever created, the exhibition includes 22 paintings and more than 50 drawings and prints.

Widely known as "the Missouri artist," Bingham gained recognition for his 1840s paintings of life in the American West. These paintings were accompanied by numerous sketches and drawings, inspired by 19th century frontier life along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

In 1974, these drawings were at risk of being sold by the St. Louis Mercantile Library to fund air conditioning for the building. To keep these valuable drawings in Missouri, then Gov. Christopher (Kit) Bond launched a statewide campaign to raise funds for the drawings to be purchased and placed in a trust to be owned by the citizens of Missouri.

To kick off this groundbreaking fund-raising effort, students across Missouri solicited spare change from their friends and families to help raise the money needed to buy the drawings. Each participating child received a certificate of appreciation from the governor, regardless of how much they donated. Children who donated at least twenty dollars received an illustrated book about Bingham.

Ultimately, children representing more than 300 schools throughout the state raised more than $25,000, inspiring the state legislature, businesses and other individuals to contribute to the cause. Today, the drawings are held in the Bingham Trust, established for the benefit of "The People of Missouri," and will never be sold or separated.

"Thanks to the children of Missouri, George Caleb Bingham's drawings were kept together as a singular body of works of art that provide invaluable insight into the artist's working process and his important river paintings," said Melissa Wolfe, curator and head of the Department of American Art, Saint Louis Art Museum. "We should all be grateful for their role in saving these special works for everyone to see and enjoy."

For more information on the exhibit, please visit

About St. Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. Areas of notable depth include Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with particular strength in 20th century German art. Admission is free to all every day. For more information, visit

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