The Highwaymen
  • Curtis Arnett
  • Hezekiah Baker
  • Al Black
  • Ellis Buckner
  • George Buckner
  • Robert Butler
  • Mary Ann Carroll
  • Johnny Daniels
  • Willie Daniels
  • Rodney Demps
  • James Gibson
  • Alfred Hair
  • Issac Knight
  • Robert L. Lewis
  • John Maynor
  • Roy McLendon
  • Alfonso Moran
  • Harold Newton
  • Lemuel Newton
  • Sam Newton
  • Livingston Roberts
  • Willie Reagan
  • Cornell Smith
  • Charles Walker
  • Sylvester M. Wells
  • Charles Wheeler

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Home About The Florida Highwaymen

The Florida Highwayman

The Florida Highwaymen originated with a group of 26 loosely organized African American artists in the Fl. Pierce area in Florida. The Highwaymen are most noted for their unique style and ability to paint Florida landscapes throughout SE Florida. The Highwaymen paintings are distinguished by the artist’s use of rich, vibrant color applied typically to Upson board. As a group, this group was sometimes able to produce 30 – 40 works per day.

It all began in the early 1950’s when A.E. Backus, a prominent white artist in S. Florida began working with  Alfred Hair, a little known African-American art student who was eager to make a career in painting, and thus began the Florida Highwaymen and their unique style of painting Florida Landscapes in and around Port St. Lucie, Ft. Pierce, St. John and the surrounding areas.

From meager beginnings, Hair went on to speak to his local friends about the ability to earn money and a living through painting and selling these Florida Landscapes. All in all, 25 of his friends joined in to form what has come to be known as the original 26 Florida Highwaymen.

Painting from parks, roadsides and garages, the Highwaymen created thousands of Florida landscape paintings over the next 20 years. Earning a living in selling their paintings was hard work. They generally would produce paintings in quantity and sell each for about $20. From this $20 the artist, supplies and sometimes salesman (yes, the Highwaymen had friends they used as salesman who would head out each day with a car load of paintings to sell in the area) had to be paid, so each involved in the process took a cut or commission on the sale of each piece. This meant they had to sell as many as possible and save money wherever they were able as profits were slim.  Because the group did not have money to spare, their works were done on a heavy cardboard, known as Upson and their frames were made of simple crudely painted white moulding. The Highwaymen worked at such a rapid pace, that many of their paintings were sold wet.

Over an approximate 18 year span from the 1950’s through the early 1980’s the Highwaymen painted an estimated 250,000 pieces! You can bet, if you had a business in the area, you could expect daily visits from the Highwaymen in their quest to sell paintings. Many doctor’s offices, real estate firms, professional office, law firms and the like bought hundreds (each) of the Highwaymen paintings over this time span. To this day you can still find families from this period still hoarding their hundreds of works. The Highwaymen worked at such a rapid pace, that many of their paintings were sold while the paint was still wet. Most of these were sold door-to-door to businesses and offices throughout the local area.

In the early 1980’s the Highwaymen sales dropped off and they began to struggle selling their works. At about this time, many of the Highwaymen went on to other careers and forms of work in order to earn a living.

Then in the early 1990’s, due to quite a bit of publicity the Highwaymen realized a resurgence in collector and public interest. Their story became one of intrigue – a true “American Dream” tale. With this renewed interest came a sharp rise in value. Even today, the Highwaymen paintings remain popular and once again many of the Original 26, along with other family members now earn a living through painting their unique “Florida Highwaymen” landscapes. Today it is very common to see Highwaymen painting in museums and at shows throughout Florida and the United States. In 2004, the original 26 Florida Highwaymen were inducted in to the Florida Artists Hall Of Fame.

The Original 26 Florida Highwaymen Are:

  • Curtis Arnett
  • Hezekiah Baker
  • Al Black
  • Ellis Buckner
  • George Buckner
  • Robert Butler
  • Mary Ann Carroll
  • Johnny Daniels
  • Willie Daniels
  • Rodney Demps
  • James Gibson
  • Alfred Hair
  • Issac Knight
  • Robert L. Lewis
  • John Maynor
  • Roy McLendon
  • Alfonso Moran
  • Harold Newton
  • Lemuel Newton
  • Sam Newton
  • Livingston Roberts
  • Willie Reagan
  • Cornell Smith
  • Charles Walker
  • Sylvester M. Wells
  • Charles Wheeler
Tags: florida highwaymen, highwaymen, paintings, florida, group, upson, applied

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