Bingham was born in Virginia, but moved with his family to Franklin, Mo., in 1818. His father died in 1823, forcing his mother to open a school in order to support the family. By the 1830s Bingham was trying to make a living like many artists of his day, painting portraits for $20-25 apiece. His portrait of Stone was painted relatively early in the artist’s career when he spent about a year living in Columbia. Bingham had become close friends with Columbian James S. Rollins, whom he painted along with various other prominent residents during in the 1830s.
By the 1840s, Bingham was exhibiting his work in New York, and by the 1850s his paintings of everyday life in Missouri had earned him national fame. The artist remained friends with Rollins and returned to Columbia periodically. Like Rollins, he remained active in Missouri’s Whig politics. In 1848, Bingham was elected a state representative from Saline County.
While not much information about Caleb Stone is readily available, it is likely he became acquainted with Bingham through Rollins. Like Rollins, Stone was a veteran of the Black Hawk War and an alumnus of Transylvania University in Kentucky. Both Stone and Rollins were ardent supporters of the University of Missouri throughout the 1830s, serving as founding members of the University’s first Board of Curators.
The friendship between these two early Columbians did not last, however. Correspondence between Bingham and Rollins indicates that by the 1850s, Rollins and Stone’s relationship had soured due to an apparent business dispute. The men may have also parted ways over politics. Rollins and Bingham were staunch Unionists throughout the Civil War period. Stone, on the other hand, became a colonel in the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard during the Civil War.
The painting is displayed in the Trulaske College of Business Dean’s Board Room and is available for public viewing. A copy of the painting will hang in the college’s main atrium.
A special thanks to Joan Stack of The State Historical Society of Missouri for her contributions to this article.