Missouri celebrates painter George Caleb Bingham’s 200th birthday

He was one of America’s greatest regional painters, and next month he turns 200. George Caleb Bingham captured the life of fur trappers and steamboats along the Missouri River, and the horrible civilian cost of the Civil War.

A self-taught painter who grew up in Missouri, Bingham witnessed the state transform from an underpopulated frontier into a thriving center of commerce and agriculture. The above painting, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, was painted in 1845 and captured a scene that was already becoming a thing of the past. Individual fur trappers, generally French, were being replaced by larger companies. His Luminist style and the little details like the cat earned him a lasting reputation. Actually, many researchers think it’s a bear cub, but it looks like a cat to me!

Bingham was a realist. The boy in the picture is half French and half Indian, a common enough sight in those days but not something that “respectable” society wanted to talk about. The original title for the painting was French Trader, Half-Breed Son, but the American Art Union changed the name when they put it on display. Yet another example of a powerful institution whitewashing America’s past.

Bingham was born 20 March 1811 and Missouri is planning several exhibitions and events. Kansas City’s famous Nelson-Atkins Museum will have an exhibition of his work from March 9 to December 2. At The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, there’s another Bingham retrospective from March 10 to September 9. There are several other events taking place to mark the bicentennial. You can find an entire list here.Perhaps his most famous painting is Order No. 11, Martial Law shown below. This order by Union General Thomas Ewing in 1863 forced civilians out of their homes in several Missouri counties bordering Kansas. It was in retaliation for a Confederate guerrilla raid that destroyed Lawrence, Kansas, killing 200 mostly unarmed men and boys. General Ewing knew that secessionist civilians helped the guerrillas, so he decided to move them out of the region. Bingham was a Union man and was as shocked as anyone else by the Lawrence Massacre, but he thought punishing civilians was unjust. His painting was an instant success and has become a permanent symbol of Missouri’s bitter Civil War. It will be on display at the Truman Museum exhibition.

[Fur Traders Descending the Missouri courtesy The Yorck Project. Order No. 11, Martial Law courtesy Americasroof]

Remembering the Confederate dead

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. As state and local planning committees gear up for a host of events, a quiet spot in western Missouri has been commemorating the war for more than a century.

The Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville, 53 miles east of Kansas City, opened as a retirement home for Confederate veterans in 1891. More than 1,600 former soldiers and their families lived amid quiet forests and placid lakes. Remarkably, the last one didn’t die until 1950. John T. Graves was a veteran of General J.O. Shelby’s Iron Brigade, the best cavalry raiders west of the Mississippi. The Iron Brigade saw countless battles throughout the war but Graves survived them all, to die in the modern world at the age of 108.

Today the Confederate Memorial is still a peaceful spot. You can stroll through the woods where old men once hobbled along swapping war stories, or fish in lakes that fed more than a regiment of veterans. The chapel is open to visitors, as is the cemetery, where the tombstones preserve the names of some of the best, and worst, men who fought for the South.

The most notorious rebel to be buried here is William Quantrill. A bandit turned Confederate guerrilla, Quantrill was the terror of the border states, looting and burning civilian homes as much as he fought Union troops. A young Frank James, brother of Jesse James, rode with Quantrill and participated in his biggest atrocity–the burning of Lawrence, Kansas, where Quantrill’s band killed about 200 mostly unarmed men and boys. Quantrill was killed in the last days of the war in Kentucky. Part of his body is buried in Louisville, some of his remains are interred in his hometown of Dover, Ohio, and the Higginsville memorial has three arm bones, two leg bones, and a lock of hair.

More honorable soldiers are also here, including several from the Iron Brigade as well as other units that saw action in every theater of the war. In fact, every Confederate state but one is represented here. Many veterans moved to Missouri after the war to farm its rich, underpopulated land, so a wide cross-section of the Confederacy ended their days at the home.

So if you’re driving through Missouri on I-70, take a quick detour and check out a piece of history. And keep an eye out next year for lots of Civil War articles here on Gadling to mark the 150th anniversary.


Jesse James robs his first bank

The Civil War was over. In Missouri, defeated Confederate soldiers trudged home and tried to pick up their lives. This was harder in Missouri than many states. Many discovered their land had been seized during the war for nonpayment of taxes, and now Union veterans farmed their fields. New Missouri laws forbade ex-Confederates from voting, holding public office, teaching, or even preaching. Former rebels were left bitter and marginalized.

Former guerrillas like Frank and Jesse James felt even more bitter. Their war had been more brutal than most people’s, and adjusting to defeat and peacetime wasn’t in their nature. Jesse bore at least three wounds from the war. The tip of the middle finger of his left hand had been shot off. The most accepted story of how this happened was that he shot it off himself while loading a pistol. Being a good Baptist, Jesse wouldn’t swear even in this situation, and shouted out “Dingus!”, which became his nickname for the rest of his life. The second injury was a bullet through the chest courtesy of a German immigrant who objected to having his saddle stolen.

The third injury is a source of mystery. In 1865, as the war was winding down, Jesse got shot through the lung. Some reports say he got this in a gunfight, but Jesse himself later spread the story that he was shot by Union troops while trying to surrender at the end of the war. This story served two purposes: it made him look like the victim of Yankee oppression, and it acted as an alibi for the first daylight bank robbery in the United States in peacetime.

At 2pm on February 13, 1866, it was snowing in Liberty, Missouri. The Clay County Savings Association was open as usual. The bank’s cashier, Greenup Bird, sat at his desk. His son William sat at another desk to his left. Nobody else was in the bank when two men wearing Union army overcoats walked in and warmed their hands by the stove. After a moment one went up to the counter and asked for change for a ten-dollar bill. William got up to help the customer and was greeted with a pistol pointed at his face. The other man also drew his revolver and both leapt over the counter, telling the astonished father and son that they better be quiet or else.

%Gallery-108291%One robber gave William a smack with his gun and pushed him into the vault, demanding the money. Meanwhile the second robber told Greenup to give him the cash on his desk. Once they’d taken all the money, the robbers pushed the two bank workers into the vault and shut the door. They neglected to lock it, however, and after a few tense moments Greenup and William came out, opened a window, and shouted that the bank had been robbed.

At that moment a group of about a dozen mounted men galloped past. One fired at a pedestrian who was also sounding the alarm. This was George Wymore, a student at Liberty College. Ironically, one of the founders of this college was none other than Robert Sallee James, Frank and Jesse’s father. The bullet tore through George’s body and he fell to the sidewalk dead.

Townspeople quickly formed a posse, but the robbers got away. Back at the bank, Greenup and William tallied their losses: almost $60,000, more than $3.5 million in today’s value. There was no insurance in those days, no FDIC. Many farmers and merchants lost their life savings. Greenup and William lost their jobs when the bank failed.

Everyone thought that ex-guerrillas had done the deed. The robbers’ trail led to a crossing of the Missouri River frequently used by bushwhackers during the war. Plus everyone knew the guerrillas rode fine horses and carried revolvers just like the robbers had. Several suspects were named, all former members of the bushwhacker band of Bloody Bill Anderson. Frank and Jesse were part of that band too. Most scholars of the James gang are convinced that Frank helped rob the bank that day, but did Jesse? The two leading James biographers disagree. Ted Yeatman, author of Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend, thinks Jesse was still bedridden from his lung wound. T.J. Stiles, author of Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, thinks Jesse exaggerated the seriousness of his injury in order to have an alibi for his early crimes.

Whatever the truth, the robbery has become part of the Jesse James legend. The Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty has restored the bank to what it was like in 1866, complete with the original vault and safe. An easy day trip from Kansas City and the Jesse James farm at Kearney, it offers a glimpse into a time when the wounds of the Civil War were still raw.

So what was the war like for Frank and Jesse James? We’ve already looked at Jesse James in the Civil War, but what was it like for his older brother Frank, who was in the war from the very beginning? Come back tomorrow for that part of the story.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: On the trail of Jesse James.

Coming up next: Frank James: the war years!

16 great farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets are not only a great way to sample a community’s natural bounty, they’re also a unique setting to experience its culture. While each farmers’ market is different, a really good farmers’ market brings a sense of community to the cities and municipalities where they operate. Wondering where you can experience some of the freshest produce, tastiest snacks and friendliest people across the country? Check out our picks for 16 of our favorites below.

Saint Louis – Soulard Farmer’s Market

The Soulard Farmers Market began in St. Louis in 1779, making it the oldest continuously operating farmers market west of the Mississippi. In addition to the fresh fruit, produce, baked goods and flowers, the market includes a craft and flea market in the two wings of an old train terminal. A bit “Old World” in atmosphere, shoppers can buy live chickens, barter with vendors and enjoy a festive, energetic atmosphere all year round.

Indianapolis – Indianapolis City Market
The Indianapolis City Market was built in 1886 and today includes an arts market on Saturday, a farmers’ market on Wednesdays, cooking classes and ethnic theme events that may focus on the foods of Asia one week or the spices of the Middle East the next. The common thread through it all is that homegrown goodness of corn, tomatoes and other produce from the soil of Indiana.

Madison, Wisconsin
The Madison Wisconsin Farmers Market fills the grounds of the state capitol building and draws a huge crowd to the pedestrian-only mall and shops nearby. Fresh produce is only part of the fun. One Saturday, Wisconsin’s famous dairy cows may be on display; at other times there might be an iron man competition underway. Since it’s the state capitol, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to sign a petition or happen to see an up-and-coming politician working the crowd.

Kansas City – City Market
Kansas City’s City Market
overflows with activity weekend mornings all year when as many as 10,000 people have been known to shop for produce and bedding plants one more, artwork on another and bargains from the community garage sale another weekend morning. Valet service is available for big purchases. Some of the city’s most prosperous farm-to-table restaurants have found a naturally successful home here.

Des Moines, Iowa
All products sold at the Des Moines Farmers Market must be grown within the state of Iowa and that means 160 or more booths carrying the freshest produce grown in some of the world’s best farmland. There are also hand-made items, such as dried flower arrangements, seed murals and wheat weaving. A miniature train for children is a standard fixture and most Saturday mornings, you’ll find musicians, clowns or dance troupes performing.

Woodstock, Illinois

Voted the best farmers market in the state of Illinois in 2008, the Woodstock Farmers Market could easily be called a “producers market” because everything must be grown, raised or made by the seller. Located on the town square of this historic community, shoppers are accompanied by folk music performed live from a nearby gazebo on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Holland, Michigan

The Holland Michigan Farmers Market literally overflows with blueberries, cherries, strawberries and other fresh fruit from the fields of western Michigan. The market also carries farm fresh cheese, eggs, herbs and spices. In the craft area, handmade furniture is an unexpected treat. But just wandering the aisles, munching on freshly baked Danish and feeling the breeze from Lake Michigan is a treat in itself.

Columbus, Ohio – North Market
Columbus Ohio’s North Market comes with its own kitchen and James Beard-award winning chef to prepare meals right on the spot from items bought at the market. In addition to fresh dairy products, including ice cream, and prepared foods from international vendors, the North Market sells just the right utensils and cookware to bring any meal together.

Lincoln, Nebraska – Historic Haymarket
The Historic Haymarket in Lincoln, Nebraska was originally a place where livestock and produce were sold in the state capitol, but now it is the site of the trendiest restaurants and retail outlets in the city. Every Saturday morning from May to October, the activity jumps another notch when more than 200 of the Midwest’s best farmers bring their produce. It’s also the best place in the city for Kolaches and coffee.

Little Rock, Arkansas – River Market

As polished as any supermarket, the Little Rock Arkansas River Market, located in the historic Quapaw Quarter, is a year-round destination for ethnic cuisine, entertainment and in the summer months, some of Arkansas’ famous tomatoes and watermelons. Something is always happening at the adjacent park overlooking the Arkansas River, and just a few blocks from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library.

— The above was written by Diana Lambdin Meyer, Seed contributor

Washington D.C. – Eastern Market

Casualty of a fire that ripped through the stalls in April of 2007, the historical Eastern Market has made a comeback and continues to serve meats, poultry, breads and gourmet goodies throughout the week in the South Hall, where many employees of nearby Capitol Hill migrate for lunch. On the weekends, stalls extend to the surrounding outdoor areas and offer antiques, crafts, photography, handmade jewelry and other collectibles. On our last visit, we purchased some vintage fruit labels and stocked up on distinctive greeting cards for less than a dollar apiece.

Santa Monica, California – Virginia Avenue Park
There are several markets that sprout up over the course of the week in this beach city. The best is the Saturday one in Virginia Avenue Park where weekly appearances are made by local restaurateurs featuring the best of their menus.

New York, NY – Union Square Greenmarket
One of the best markets in New York City is the Union Square Farmer’s Market, which extends the length of the west side of the square. Stalls are filled with local fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, poultry, fish, spices… just about anything you can imagine. At the tail end, you’ll find tables with artists selling their wares. We picked up some local goat cheese and wine, plus a hilarious comic-book version of the Grimm brother tales, handed to us directly by the author.

Chicago, IL – French Market
Inspired by European markets, the French Market was recently developed as an effort to promote community in the city. It’s located adjacent to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The vendors sell delicious pastries and prepared foods as well as produce, meats, cheese and seafood. Grab some mussels and delicious Sicilian sandwiches before hopping on a train to the Chicago suburbs. Make sure to stop by Chicago’s world-renowned Green City Market while you’re in town.

— The above was written by M. Fuchsloch, Seed contributor

Portland, OR – Portland State University
Portland has long relished in its status as one of the country’s most eco-conscious, sophisticated food cities, and the town’s wealth of farmer’s markets certainly doesn’t disappoint. Each Saturday the shoppers of Portland flock to the grounds of Portland State University, home to Portland’s biggest and most famous of the city’s six recognized downtown markets.

San Francisco, CA – Ferry Building and Plaza
No list of farmers markets could be complete without mentioning this titan of the food world. Ground zero for the birth of slow food and much of the current revolution in local, organic eating sweeping the nation, San Francisco and the Bay Area is king and its historic Ferry Building and nearby Plaza Farmer’s Market is the capital building. Stop by for delicious favorites like locally produced cheeses, more mushrooms than you’ve ever seen and some tasty gelato.

The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Once upon a time, the world’s food capitals were a mere few well-known locales like Paris, New York, and Bangkok. All the action (and the eyes, and the forks) were focused there.

Recently, though, many areas of the world have expanded and improved both their menus and their talents in the kitchen, resulting in far more places staking their claims in the classy world of quality dining. Similarly, other cities have quietly cultivated some of the most amazing farmer’s markets on the globe, and their passion for fresh food has spread throughout their communities. Taken together, the following are the crème de la crème — the Greatest Cities in the World for Foodies.

Sydney, Australia

Australia imports very little of its produce; the great majority is harvested from local fields and farms promising fresh, flavorful dishes with the very best of in-season fruits and vegetables. In addition, the open-air Sydney Fish Market showcases the best and freshest seafoods from both the local area and from around the world. The Fish Market is an excellent place to shop, to grab some of the world’s finest sushi, and even to take some cooking classes in their recently renovated facility. For those soon to visit, here’s a list of prizewinning eateries in the Sydney area.

Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
China’s south coast is a celebration of amazing foods. If you’ve got a taste for Asian-fusion, or the best dim-sum on earth, this is your city. The amount and variety of dining options is stunning, and whether you’re interested in street-side vendors, feasting in Yung-Kee where as many as five-thousand guests dine on their roasted goose every day (!), or meals carefully prepared by five-star chefs, Hong Kong has it on the menu.San Francisco, California, USA
For many foodophiles, San Francisco is a potentially surprising pick. However, what most don’t know is that San Francisco actually has a strong culinary heritage that began largely as the coincidental landing pad for many immigrants arriving in the United States from Asia. The melting pot of different flavors, traditions, and recipes that cultivated there spawned dozens of powerful contenders in the culinary industry. Combine that with one of the worlds strongest and most vibrant wine cultures and it doesn’t seem surprising at all for San Fransisco to make this list.

Pro tip: The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is held Tuesday and Saturday offering produce from small regional farmers and ranchers, many of whom are certified organic. If you don’t feel like buying fruits and veggies, the market also offers sweets, cheeses, and wines.

Melbourne, Australia
The Botanical, the Koko, the Vue de Monde… some argue that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia, and for good reason. Melbourne is host to some of the most fantastic dining establishments in the world, and might just have more restaurants than any other city on the continent. Its strong fashion sense and sharp clientele demand a classy dining experience and only the tastiest cuisine can last in a city with such competition. Award winners abound in central Melbourne, so any visit here is unlikely to disappoint.

Rome, Italy
It’s been said that it’s hard to eat poorly in Rome (or even perhaps anywhere in Italy). Here, at the birthplace of our modern pastas, you can expect the well known tradition of Italian dining to be at its absolute best, and like San Fransisco: the wine culture is certainly at the top of its class. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a load of money, though. Both five star class and some enticing cheap eats are available on just about every corner of the old city.

Mumbai, India
Any foodie looking for a taste of truly authentic India will be satisfied (and stuffed!) here. No matter what variety you’re looking for, be it coastal cuisine or seafood, a good kebab, or just some hot tandoori, it doesn’t get any better than this. The unique spices and flavors native to India offer a festival for the palate you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Stop in to any one of the “innumerable restaurants” in the area and be prepared for something spicy! You won’t be able to say “naan” to these choices!

Montreal, Canada

Fresh, hot breads, rich and bitey cheeses, smoked meats, and sweet wines… Montreal is a gift to the palette. It has a history rich in perhaps the most renowned culinary culture on earth: of course, we’re talking about the French. The selection of restaurants in Montreal, be they casual or upscale, will have something on the menu capable of teasing even the most fickle of palettes, and the ingredients are fresh, often grown locally and sometimes picked just that day.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina’s capital is awash with cafes and shops, many specializing in just a quick bite to eat and many others capable of bringing the full bodied Argentinian flair to your plate (a new experience for many, a regrettable one for none). What really makes Buenos Aires’ kitchens worthwhile is their infusion of Spanish and Italian influences that form unique nuances derived from both, but brought to full potency only here, in Argentina.

— The above was written by Caleb Roy, Seed contributor.

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Once you bite into a Chicago-style hotdog, you’ll wonder why you’ve ever eaten another type. A typical Chicago hot dog includes a pickle spear, relish, tomatoes, mustard, onion, and even a dash of celery salt. You can find hotdog stands and restaurants throughout Chicago so there is no need for extensive search. However, for a traditional experience, try the South side.

Stann Creek District, Belize
Local foods consist of surprisingly simple ingredients and include fried chicken, tamales, and rice and beans. Flavored with local spices and flavors, food lovers who enjoy the unusual will find common ground with those that love the familiar. There is something here for everyone.

To truly eat like a local, go into town (dubbed the “cultural capital of Belize”) instead of staying on the resorts. For an extra bit of pleasure, pair the food with a Belikin. It’s the national beer of Belize and worth every calorie.

Springfield, Illinois, USA
Not many people know Springfield, Illinois as a great food town, but let me tell you about something called the horseshoe. For those that love cheese and meat, you have found your heaven. It starts with a piece of Texas toast and is followed by any type of meat you want (although buffalo chicken is especially popular). Throw some french fries on top of the meat, and plaster cheese sauce on top of the fries. Restaurants throughout the town offer this staple of Springfield diets, but the West side is especially plentiful in horseshoe restaurants.

Avery Island is home to Tabasco, the greatest thing to happen to food since the plate. Factory tours run 7 days a week and cost $1.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
If you love gumbo and jambalaya, take a trip to New Orleans for a traditional delight. In addition to the cajun food, make sure you try the fried pastries (beignets) paired with a cup of coffee while you’re in town. If you like to bar-hop and need a bit of liquor to cool your mouth from the jambalaya, try the French Quarter to move between establishments.

Pro tip: Nearby Avery Island is home to Tabasco, the greatest thing to happen to food since the plate. Factory tours run seven days a week, and cost a paltry $1.

Venice, Italy
Venice has been a traditional port city for centuries and chocolate helped make it rich. It’s a tradition that has never left this city on the water. Chocolate shops are located throughout the city. However, to visit the affordable shops, venture away from St. Mark’s and the tourist area; try Santa Croce and the San Polo areas instead.

To top it all off, try a sgroppino. It’s a traditional cocktail with vodka, sorbet, mint, and sparking white wine.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Haggis is only for the truly brave of heart. This traditional dish consists of sheep innards mixed with onion, spices, and even oatmeal. I’ve found that each haggis chef cooks it a bit differently, but all haggis reminds me of salisbury steak. Tourists flock to restaurants on the Royal Mile that offer it just for the experience. However, if you wish to taste a more traditional haggis, step off of the Royal Mile and into a small family run shop. It may be more traditional and not cater to sensitive tourist bellies.

— The above was written by Victoria Ross, Seed contributor.

London, England
As early as the 13th century a food market existed under London Bridge on the south side of the Thames. Today, Borough Market (pronounced Burrah) is one of the largest food markets in the world offering an impressive display of conventional and organic produce, cheese, meats, wild and exotic game, seafood, wine, and baked goods. There are also a number of stalls within the market that offer prepared food. Join the adventure and get into the longest line. Don’t worry about what’s being sold at the other end.

Of course, London has been for some time a major food destination. With tourism and travel booming, the restaurant industry has been able to flourish — producing such gems as triple Michelin Star winner The Fat Duck overseen by Heston Blumenthal and his 12-course menu; or the Tamarind, a classy, casual eatery serving Indian cuisine that often sees celebrities like Madonna popping in for a quick bite.

Barcelona, Spain
La Boqueria market dates back to 1217 and is one of the more charismatic and intimate food markets in the world, located just off La Rambla. In a city known for seductive architectural influences, La Boqueria stands out as a gem. Here you will find a wide variety of diverse and colorful foods (and characters).

Bologna, Italy
Everyone expects to find great food in Italy. If your travels do not include Bologna, you’ll miss out on one of Italy’s greatest masterpieces. Behind the grand arcades of Piazza Maggiore are cobblestone streets where greengrocers, fishmongers, cheese merchants, butchers and bakers have plied their fare since Caesar was in power. Here you will find Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, Parma ham and bags of tortellini hanging in shop windows. Impatient? There are countless restaurants and cafes worthy of their presence in this area of gastronomic heaven.

St. Petersburg, Russia
Did you know that Russians spend more money on food than any other European nation? It’s no wonder with options as the Yeliseyevsky Gastronom Market, housed in an Art Nouveau mansion built in 1901.

This grand emporium showcases exquisite seafood, meat, cheese, and baked goods. You will be amazed at the impressive quality and quantity of caviar on offer and will be hard pressed to find more opulent surroundings to showcase luxury items from around the world.

Tokyo, Japan
The Tsukiji fish market handles more than 2000 tons of seafood per day. A highlight of any visit to Tokyo is a 5am tour of the market to observe the auction of the most exquisite fish and the transfer of more than $5 billion US in this massive market complex each year. The best catches routinely find themselves prepared as world-class courses at restaurants such as Waketokuyama and Tsujitome.

Not only is Tsukiji the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, but it’s one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind, employing nearly 65,000. Just outside Tsukiji is an outdoor market offering not only exquisite seafood, but also produce and food-related goods, including an impressive selection of kitchen knives.

Toronto, Canada
A farmer’s market has been in existence at Front and Jarvis Street since 1803. Today, the St. Lawrence Market encompasses two buildings: the South Market, open throughout the week with more than 100 food vendors on the upper level, and hard-to-find exotic and international items on the lower level.

Every Saturday the North Market hosts a farmer’s market starting at 5am. Need inspiration? Located on the west mezzanine of the South Market, The Market Kitchen is a 2,400 square foot cooking school with exposed brick, 20 foot-high ceilings, and soaring views of the Toronto skyline.

— The above was written by BriBuenosAires, Seed contributor.

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