James Rumsey

  • George William West, James Rumsey, ca. 1790, oil on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Eugene A. Rumsey and Brothers, 1957.11.2

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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.

James Rumsey
ca. 1790
On View
Not on view.
4 7/8 x 4 1/8 in. (12.4 x 10.5 cm) rectangle
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Bequest of Eugene A. Rumsey and Brothers

Mediums Description
oil on wood
  • Portrait male – Rumsey, James – bust
  • Occupation – industry – engineering
Object Number
Linked Open Data
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