Record: Portrait of Steamboat Capt. Joseph Kinney

Samuel  Chilton
Portrait of Steamboat Capt. Joseph Kinney, CRS #9

Copyright 2010, George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne Supplement
Fred R. Kline, M.A., Editor & Director, Independent Art Historian
Kline Art Research Associates
7 Avenida Vista Grande, Suite B-7 , Santa Fe, NM 8750

frk   505-9881103

  GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM, American, 1811-1879  

B. 10. 30. 1810 Washington County, PA / D. 3.1.1892, “Rivercene”, New Franklin, MO. 

Son of James and Margaret (Beeler) Kinney.  Early life in Madison, Indiana in pork-packing business. First marriage, 1841, to Mary Collins of Cincinnati (one child, Mary Jane Kinney Clarke).  Second marriage, August 21, 1845, to Matilda Clarke (b.1827 Cambridge, Ohio-d.1896 Rivercene) of Boonville (11 children, six died in infancy. Surviving children: Noble Kinney, Joseph Beeler Kinney, Alice Kinney, Cora Kinney Hunt, Margaret Kinney Ravenel.

Joseph Kinney, a distinguished pioneer of Howard County, MO, was one of Missouri’s most notable and highly successful steamboat men, from 1838 and increasingly from 1856 through the Civil War and into the early 1880s.  His first business success as a shoe merchant, from 1844 in Boonville until 1856 in St. Louis, enabled his fulltime venture into steamboats.  In his career he built, captained, and operated 11 steamboats primarily on the Missouri River and on the Mississippi River as well.  A close associate described Kinney as “The most daring, the most resourceful, and the most successful of all the Missouri River Captains.”

One of Kinney’s major contributions to riverboating was his advocacy of the stern-wheel  steamer over the traditional side-wheel steamer.  Kinney, in applying the new technology on his Missouri River steamboats, found the stern-wheel more manageable in narrow channels, and thus safer, and he encouraged and helped spread its use at a time when the stern-wheel was widely ridiculed on the river.  His example proved the utility of the innovative design and  encouraged its use.

Kinney’s profits as a “Riverboat Baron” enabled him in 1869 to build “Rivercene”, a grand mansion and 500-acre estate across the river from Boonville in New Franklin, still today an architectural gem enshrined in the National Register of Historic Places.  From 1869, Kinney left the river and took up residence at Rivercene where he concentrated on his steamboat business and other merchandising businesses up and down the river from Boonville.


Oil on canvas


30 x 25 inches




Circa 1839-1844

Revised from its first dating of ca. 1839 by E. Maurice Bloch, The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonne’, #ill. #97. Kinney moved to Boonville, MO in 1844 when in all likelihood he met Bingham for the first time and it can be assumed, considered stylistically as well, that the portrait was probably commissioned during Bingham’s visit to Boonville, September-December 1844 when he painted banners there for the national Whig convention.



Commissioned by Joseph Kinney, ca. 1844
Kinney Family Collection, “Rivercene”, New Franklin, MO to 1948
Kinney Estate Auction, 1948
Acquired by Mrs. Barber (who also purchased Bloch #393—see reference below)
Barber Estate Auction, ca. 1953
Purchased by Clements Robinson, Kansas City, later St. Louis
Sold to Daniel E. Liberman, St. Louis, 1970
Dispersed to Unknown Private collections, ca. 1970s
Anonymous donation to Chrysler Museum; deaccessioned March-April 2010 (as Unknown artist American School, “Portrait of a seated gentleman”)
Auction: American School, “Portrait of a Gentleman”

Collection of Blaine and Stephanie McBurney, Marshall, MO



“George Caleb Bingham: Portrait of Steamboat Captain Joseph Kinney Re-Discovered”, Fred R. Kline Gallery, Santa Fe, NM. July-August 2010 (First Exhibition)

 The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne’ Supplement of Paintings and Drawings. Fred R. Kline, Editor. George Caleb Bingham, Portrait of Steamboat Capt. Joseph Kinney, illustration #9. Exhibited online at  September 2010, Santa Fe, NM


The George Caleb Bingham Catalogue Raisonne’ Supplement of Paintings and Drawings. 
 Fred R. Kline, Editor.  Portrait of Steamboat Capt. Joseph Kinney. Illustration # 9 (Re-discovery, positively identified, first publication in color).  Published online at .  September 2010, Santa Fe, NM.

The Paintings of George Caleb Bingham: A Catalogue Raisonne’. E. Maurice Bloch, Editor. Portrait of a Man (possibly Capt. Joseph Kinney; unlocated, Illustration #97. University of Missouri Press, 1986.  Note: See also Bloch #391 for a second portrait of Capt. Kinney painted thirty years later in 1874; and related 1874 portraits: Bloch #392 (Mrs. Joseph Kinney); and Bloch #393 (Mrs. Boone Webster Clarke/Mary Jane Kinney with brother Joseph Beeler Kinney).