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Shooting for the Beef
Accession # 40.342
Artist George Caleb Bingham
Title Shooting for the Beef
Date 1850
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 33 3/8 x 49 in. (84.8 x 124.5 cm) frame: 46 7/8 x 62 1/2 in. (119.1 x 158.8 cm)
Signed Signed lower left: "G.C. Bingham / 1850."
Credit Line Dick S. Ramsay Fund
Location American Identities: Everyday Life / A Nation Divided

Curatorial Remarks: The glum-looking steer at far left watches as men compete in a shooting contest—a typical western pastime—to win him as a prize. The target is a nail on the board leaning against the dead tree. A sign above reads “To Boonsborough 14 miles.” This town, named for the renowned pioneer Daniel Boone, was in central Missouri’s Boone County.

The lively narrative of rough but amiable frontier types and the far-ranging view of the landscape create a vivid representation of Manifest Destiny. During this era, many Americans believed in divine approval of westward expansion and limitless opportunity for those with a pioneering, competitive spirit.