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The Cover
November 25, 1998

The Verdict of the People

JAMA. 1998;280(20):1728. doi:10.1001/jama.280.20.1728

Between February 1852 and the spring of 1855, American genre painter George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) completed three major works that have come to be known as "The Election Series." The first (chronologically, though not logically) was The County Election (cover, November 4, 1998). The second, entitled Stump Speaking or The County Canvass, appeared two years later, in 1854. As its title indicates, it depicted the campaigning process. The third and last (logically and chronologically) was The Verdict of the People (cover). Begun in the spring of 1854, it was completed the following spring. Although it is not clear that Bingham intended these as a series when he began, by the time he had finished The Verdict of the People his intentions could not have been clearer. Not only in theme, but in composition and lighting, even in the similarity of characters, the relationship is obvious. Moreover, Bingham subsequently had the paintings engraved so that he might have prints of uniform size made. In some sense a forerunner of current television campaign ads, they made it possible for the story of the election process to be distributed throughout the country and read like the panels of a triptych. For one as passionate as Bingham, politics was a religion, and images were its sacramentals. (On the other hand, it is possible that some might consider the series paintings more like the cells of a comic strip in the daily newspaper.)

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