Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: pat-244
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 75.75" x 52"
Flag Size (H x L): 65" x 34"
Swallowtail format, patriotic, vertical banner, bearing the name and the seal of the State of Virginia. Made in the period between roughly 1861 and the 1876, the textile is entirely hand-painted on light, cotton canvas, and tacked to a red-painted, wooden staff, with gold, acorn finials, that is original to the banner. A length of red wool tape was used to reinforce the point where the tacks are affixed.

Note the bold and interesting imagery, which includes a modernistic, folded streamer on a cornflower blue field of 20 visible stars and an interpretation of the device of the state, executed in a folk style. Below this, on a field of 11 vertical stripes, is a medallion set within beautiful, gilded scrollwork.

In May 1776 the Virginia colony declared its independence from Great Britain. On July 1, 1776, a committee of four was appointed to make a proper seal for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The four men were Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, George Wythe, and Robert Carter Nicholas. Four days later the committee's report for a design of the seal was read, and George Mason presented it to the Virginia government. It was voted on and approved that same day. It is not known for certain which members of the committee were chiefly responsible for the design of the seal, but it is generally believed to be principally the work of George Wythe.

The seal makers did not want a design which in any way resembled the style of coats-of-arms used in Britain. Due to strong admiration for the Roman Republic among Virginia leaders, the design of the new seal was taken from the mythology of Ancient Rome. The Latin motto "Sic semper tyrannis" translates in English as "Thus always to tyrants". The imagery shows tyranny lying prostrate beneath the foot of Virtus, the Roman deity of virtue. The royal crown has fallen to the ground to symbolize the new republic's release from the monarchical control of Great Britain. It is interesting to note that Virginia and New York are the only U.S. states with a flag or seal displaying a crown.

The robes of the fallen monarch are typically purple, as reference to Julius Caesar and the Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus, but the many artists who copied state seals took great liberty in their work and thus great variation is seen from one example to the next, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Banners of this type were often hoisted on single vertical staffs that held the rope aloft in the center. This basic style was both carried in parades and affixed on mounts indoors. Similar decorations and banners can be seen along the walls at early political conventions, or hoisted among benches, where they denoted the positions of the seating of attendees from various states. Others in the same form are known for Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas, and Massachusetts, as well as New York City. The latest state among these is Kansas, which gained statehood in the opening year of the Civil War (1861). The presence of the New York City example strongly suggests that whatever event they were used at occurred in New York.

The manner of construction including the fabric and the painted surface, as well as the overall imagery, and the seals, themselves, suggests that the banners date to the third quarter of the 19th century. The only political convention held in New York, for either party, at any time between 1861 and 1900, took pace in 1868. In that year the Democrat National Convention was held at Manhattan’s Tammany Hall.

A colorful illustration, printed for Joseph Shannon’s Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, shows the interior of the building masterfully festooned with patriotic banners, medallions, and buntings of similar nature. Only the front and the central interior are pictured, but two full sets of state-identifying decorations are shown. Though neither happens to match this particular style, the particular banners may have been the set carried in the parade that accompanied the event, and may have afterwards been hung elsewhere on the premises. The amount of wealth at Tammany Hall at the time, and the artistic resources available to produce the banners, were more easily accessed in New York than anywhere else in the nation.

An alternative, though less likely possibility, is that the banners were used in festivities pertaining to the 100-year anniversary of American independence in 1876, either in New York, or at an event such as the Centennial International Exhibition, our nation’s first World’s Fair, held in Philadelphia in that year. In addition to each, individual state, New York City may have had its own pavilion at the Centennial Expo. I would consider this far more likely, if a banner representing the City of Philadelphia were known. Whatever the case may be, the particular banner that is the focus of this narrative, is a boldly graphic, colorful survivor of the latter 19th century, and the only, privately held example of this sort that I am aware of, with the device of the State of Virginia.

A banner from the same series, featuring Kentucky, is illustrated in “Stars & The Stripes: Patriotic Motifs in American Folk Art” by Deborah Harding, (2002, Rizzoli International Publications, New York,) p. 52-53.

Mounting: The banner has been hand-stitched to a background 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye, which was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. A shadowbox was created to accommodate the staff. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is minor soiling and there was very minor paint loss. A very minor amount of professional restoration was undertaken. There is some breakdown around the left eye of the soldier. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count: 21
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Virginia
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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