Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 37.5" x 47"
Flag Size (H x L): 25.25" x 33"
This 37 star parade flag, used in the 1868 presidential campaign of General Ulysses S. Grant & Schuyler Colfax, is one of the most dynamic designs known to exist in parade flag collecting. Printed on silk, the stars of the flag are configured in a beautiful double-wreath, with a large center star and a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton. The colors of the flag are striking, with a royal blue canton and scarlet stripes. Far and away the most outstanding feature, however, can be found in the center of flag. Here there is a large oval medallion with an unusually detailed, black sepia ink portrait of the soon-to-be president, wearing a bowtie and double-breasted military overcoat with officer’s insignia on the shoulders. “The Peoples Choice” is printed above the portrait, in blue, within the medallion, while “Grant & Colfax” is printed below it, also in blue, in the center of the 5th white stripe.

The flag’s overwhelming visual appeal is further heightened by its size and the fact that this is one of only a tiny handful known to exist. This exact flag is the plate example from the book “Threads of History”, by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1979), and is pictured on page 161 as item 306. Collins served as curator of political history at the Smithsonian and his landmark text is considered the foremost reference on political flag and textile collecting.

A nearly identical flag is known in which the star configuration, size, slogan, and portraits are the same, but the size of “Grant & Colfax” is significantly larger and in a different typeset. A third example is known to exist in this size, but the words “Grant & Colfax” are replaced with “In Union is Peace”. These are privately owned and undocumented. Another variety in a similar style is pictured by Collins in plate 347. This is a smaller version of the same flag, but with an additional slogan. All are exceptionally rare.

It is important not to overlook the significance of the slogan “The Peoples Choice”, because slogans of any kind are scarce on political parade flags. Between the years of 1843 and 1901, only about fifteen percent of the various basic styles of printed campaign flags bear slogans or any other notable text past the candidates’ names and the offices they were seeking. Further, the number of flags that exist in each of those styles with slogans is very small. To say this another way, only about eleven political Stars & Stripes with slogans are pictured in the Collins book between the years 1843 and 1901, and those are some of the most rare examples. There are about 70 styles without slogans, and among these are the most common flags. So the actual percentage of existing flags with slogans is very small, certainly less than five percent. Among those relating to specifically to Grant, this is the only basic style with a slogan from either of his two campaigns.

Because Grant is one of the most beloved figures in American history, when his popularity is considered in addition to the size and bold presentation of the flag, its silk construction and its rarity, and the high quality of the large portrait and presence of a slogan, the sum of the above facts results in one of the very best American flags of the 19th century.

The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union on March 1st, 1867. The 37 star flag was official from that year until 1877, although it generally fell out of use in 1876 with the addition of Colorado. The 37 star-count is scarce in comparison to those that immediately preceded and followed it. This is due primarily to the lack of major patriotic events during the period when 37 star flags were generally used, which followed the Civil War yet preceded the 100-year anniversary of our nation's independence. While the 37 star flag was still official in 1876, it was well known that at least one more state would be joining the Union that year. This caused flag makers to cease production in favor of 38 and 39 star flags. For this reason, 37 star flags were seldom produced for our nation's centennial, where 38 and 39 star counts were preferred, along with 13 star examples to commemorate the original 13 colonies.

Biographical Information on Ulysses S. Grant:
President and General Ulysses S. Grant was born in Ohio in 1822, the son of a tanner. He was shy and quiet as a youth, and most who knew him then would never have expected forthcoming greatness. Like Robert E. Lee, his eventual counterpart, Grant was a West Point graduate and fought in the Mexican War. Unlike that of Lee, however, Grant’s early military career was far from illustrious. Forced to leave the Army for insubordination, as a civilian he went through six different jobs in just six years. When war broke out in 1861, he was working for his father’s leather shop in Illinois. Trained officers were scarce, so he soon returned to the Army and was placed in charge of an unruly group of Illinois volunteers that no one else would have. Accounts say that he drilled them nearly to their death, before leading minor, successful campaigns that turned heads and won him a promotion to Brigadier General. Various incidents and problems with alcohol caused many to plead for his dismissal, but Lincoln made the suggestion that “a case of whatever Grant was drinking” be sent to every Union General. “I cannot spare this man”, touted Lincoln, “...he fights.” In March of 1864, Grant’s continued determination caused Lincoln to place him in charge of the entire Union Army. In April of 1865, he cornered the main part of the Confederate Army near Richmond, Virginia, an act that caused the surrender of General Lee and ended the war.

Following the failures of incumbent President, Andrew Johnson, Grant’s hero status won him the 1868 Republican nomination. He was elected, and although many shortcomings would cause Grant’s presidency to be widely criticized, he was known to be terminally honest, exceptionally loyal to his friends and staff (sometimes to a fault), and he was re-elected in 1872. While in office, he fought for equal voting rights for people of all races and colors, pushing the 15th amendment to its 1870 ratification. Grant strove to maintain order in the south with brute force, using the military to protect African Americans and combat southern extremists and hate groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, which had been established in 1866 and was experiencing rapid growth. Grant died in 1885 and was interred in New York City (Grant’s Tomb).

A member of the Whig party, before transitioning to the Know-Nothings and then becoming a Republican, New York City-born Schuyler Colfax served seven terms in congress, including three as Speaker of the House. He was jovial and well-liked by both the mainstream and radicals, which earned him the nickname “Smiler” Colfax. He served with Grant as Vice President for the first term only and was unsuccessful for re-nomination due to allegations of corruption in a business scandal.

In 1872 Colfax was replaced by Vice Presidential running mate Henry Wilson, a leading senator from Massachusetts. Born Jeremiah Jones Colbath in 1812 in Farmington, New Hampshire, one of twelve siblings, he was given up for adoption because his impoverished family could not support him. He legally changed his name to that of his adopted father and took the first name of Henry. Wilson moved to Massachusetts in 1833 and became a shoemaker. He was well educated, attending several academies, and taught public school in the town of Natick. Wilson joined the state legislature in 1841 and served until 1852. For four years of this time he owned and edited a paper called the Boston Republican. He was elected by Democrats and Free-Soilers to the United States Senate in 1855, before joining the Republican Party and serving three more terms. Like many politicians following the Civil War, Wilson took his turn with the military. As senator, Wilson served as Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, and during the Civil War, he took a more hands-on role by raising and commanding the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Wilson became paralyzed in 1873 and died in the United States Capitol Building in November of 1875, before his term had ended.

Construction: Printed silk with a hand-sewn cotton sleeve along the hoist, through which a hemp rope was threaded. The rope is period to the flag's term of use.

Provenance: Ex-James Barnes. The plate example from "Threads of History" by Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press), p. 161, item 306.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples; more than anyone worldwide.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There are very minor losses in limited areas. The worst of these occurs near the center of the top stripe, where there is a small, L-shaped tear. A small patch was applied behind this area by a former owner as we chose to leave it intact. There is a tiny amount of foxing and staining, but the colors are excellent and the overall condition is absolutely remarkable for the period, especially when considering the flag's fine silk construction.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 37
Earliest Date of Origin: 1868
Latest Date of Origin: 1868
State/Affiliation: Nebraska
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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