James Sidney Rollins: Warmest Personal Friend – Part IV

 

George Caleb Bingham, Major James Sidney Rolllins, 1871, State Historical Soceity of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

George Caleb Bingham, Major James Sidney Rolllins, 1871, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 25 inches, State Historical Soceity of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

Following the Civil War, James Sidney Rollins declined to campaign for federal office. In both 1866 and 1868, regional voters elected him to the state senate. The Democratic Party drafted him as their gubernatorial candidate in the 1872 election. He lost and retired from political life.

Throughout his political career, Rollins supported free public education and the University of Missouri. He served as president of the board of curators for nearly 25 years, from 1861 until 1886. He also was a businessman. He had extensive agricultural interests in central Missouri. He invested in the Santa Fe and California trade, in mining in Montana, and in the North Missouri Railroad. He was a director of both the Union Pacific and the North Missouri Railroads.

In 1870, Rollins invested in Bingham’s business venture of producing engravings of his painting Martial Law or Order No. 11. When Bingham could not repay the loan, Rollins accepted copies of the finest prints as payment. Rollins was influential in having the University of Missouri appoint Bingham the school’s first professor of art.

Supporters of Major Rollins commissioned George Caleb Bingham in 1871 to paint a full-length portrait of his friend for the University of Missouri. In preparation, Bingham painted a head study, a maquette, and then the life-size image. The large portrait was dedicated in July 1873. (images)

Injured in a train derailment in 1874, Rollins never fully recovered. He died in Columbia, Missouri, on 9 January 1888 at the age of 76. He is buried in the Columbia Cemetery. He and Mary had eleven children, but “he always claimed he fathered twelve children, one immortal – the University of Missouri.” One of his contemporaries remembered him as one of the finest public speakers in the nation.[1]

Seventeen years before the death of Major Rollins, his friend Bingham wrote:

As to your own chances for immortality, they are certainly good…Your name is identified with too much that is to be permanent in our state to render doubtful the certainty of its reaching posterity, and when you leave it, as I hope and believe for a better land, you will not be “unwept unhonored and unsung.”[2] 

In Missouri, James Sidney Rollins is remembered as the “Father of the University.” As a nation, should we remember him as a man who put the good of the nation over his personal interests and helped put an end to slavery?

(c) Fine Art Investigations. 2012 
All Rights Reserved

[1] A. J. D. Stewart, The History of the bench and bar of Missouri: with reminiscences of the the prominent lawyers of the past, and a record of the law’s leaders of the present, (Legal Publishing Company, 1898), 388

[2] Letter to James Sidney Rollins from George Caleb Bingham dated June 4, 1871, Kansas City, Missouri, in Lynn Wolf Gentzler, ed., Roger E. Robinson, compiler, “But I Forget That I am a Painter and Not a Politician”: The Letters of George Caleb Bingham, (Columbia, Missouri: State Historical Society of Missouri and Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc., 2011), 305.

Bibliography

Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress, “Rollins, James Sidney (1812-1888),” http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000412

Bloch, E. Maurice, George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonné (Berkeley, California: University of California Press), 1967

Bloch, E. Maurice, George Caleb Bingham: The Evolution of an Artist, (Berkeley, California: University of California Press), 1967

Bloch, E. Maurice, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham, (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1986)

Gentzler, Lynn Wolf, ed., Roger E. Robinson, compiler, “But I Forget That I am a Painter and Not a Politician”: The Letters of George Caleb Bingham, Columbia, Missouri: State Historical Society of Missouri and Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc., 2011

Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005, 687

Mering, Clay, “James S. Rollins,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_S._Rollins

Mering, John Vollmer, The Whig Party in Missouri, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1967

Shoemaker, F. C., Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians, Missouri Book Company, 1918

Smith, William Benjamin. James Sidney Rollins. New York, 1891

Snyder, Felix Eugene, History of Boone County, Missouri…, (Ramfire Press, 1882)

State Historical Society of Missouri, Rollins, James S. (1812-1888), Papers, 1546-1968, http://shs.umsystem.edu/manuscripts/invent/1026.pdf

Stewart, A. J. D., The History of the bench and bar of Missouri: with reminiscences of the the prominent lawyers of the past, and a record of the law’s leaders of the present, Legal Publishing Company, 1898

Winn, Kenneth, “James Sidney Rollins,” Missouri Civil War Sesquicentennial: http://mocivilwar150.com/history/figure/194

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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