Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

James Rumsey

ca. 1790 Attributed to George William West Born: St. Andrew's Parish, Maryland 1770 Died: 1795 oil on wood 4 7/8 x 4 1/8 in. (12.4 x 10.5 cm) rectangle Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Eugene A. Rumsey and Brothers 1957.11.2 Not currently on view


Luce Center Label

Born in 1743, James Rumsey was a man of many trades. Although not formally educated, he was skilled at science, blacksmithing, cabinetmaking, and milling. In 1784, George Washington commissioned Rumsey to build a house and stable for him at his residence in Bath, Virginia. Washington also supported Rumsey’s vision---realized in 1786---of building a steamboat capable of navigating the Potomac River. The first trial run was not a success, but a reworked design of 1787 fared better. Rumsey spent four years in London in search of financial backers. One day, after showing the latest model, the Columbia Maid, he fell ill and died from what his doctors described as “overstraining his brain.”

Keywords

Occupation - industry - engineering

Portrait male - Rumsey, James - bust

painting

About Attributed to George William West

Born: St. Andrew's Parish, Maryland 1770 Died: 1795