Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 68" x 60"
Flag Size (H x L): 56" tall x 48" wide (50.5" wide including the staff)
Banner with the seal of the State of Ohio, beautifully hand-painted on heavy cotton, with a lustrous polychromatic surface, pleasant craquelure and patina, and retaining its original staff. With a white ground and buff yellow borders to the left and right, accompanied by black striping, the lower edge is attractively scalloped and painted to look as if it was fringed in wide, braided rope.

To understand the imagery within the device, a bit of early Ohio history is required.

When Ohio became the first state to be created from within the Northwest Territory, on February 19th, 1803, a provision for an official state seal had already been approved. This actually occurred in the previous calendar year, on November 29th, 1802, before Ohio had even achieved statehood. The verbiage was part of the Ohio State Constitution, formally adopted on that date, which took effect about two weeks after statehood, on March 3rd, 1803.

While the creation of a seal was authorized, no actual design was specified until March 25th of that year, when a sketch was submitted by Ohio's first Secretary of State, William Creighton, Jr.. Circular in shape, the imagery was directed to include: "On the right side, near the bottom, a sheaf of what, and on the left a bundle of seventeen arrows, both standing erect…[and] behind them, a mountain, over which shall appear a rising sun." This was to be surrounded by lettering with its formal title: "The Great Seal of the state of Ohio." The count of arrows was to reflect Ohio's admission as the 17th state. The Mountains are thought to represent a view of Mt. Logan from the home of Thomas Worthington, Ohio's first Senator, near the modern-day city of Chillicothe.

The seal is reported to have quickly fallen out of use and the act that created it was actually repealed in 1831. Between that time and the Civil War (1861-65), no official coat of arms existed, though a number variant designs were produced. In fact, one might suggest that no design existed after 1805, when the statute that created the 1803 seal was readopted, this time with no actual descriptive text of what the seal was to look like.

Designers of these various unofficial seals in use within the state employed a wide degree of artist's liberty. This was very common in 19th century America, even if an official design existed.

In 1865, fueled by irritation with inconsistency, and embarrassment that other state seals were larger and more elaborate than the original and long-unofficial one from Ohio, Secretary of State William Henry Smith called for a new device. The revised design included a border in the form of a shield. It also added the following elements to the imagery: "In the left foreground, a river shall be represented flowing toward the right foreground; supporting the shield, on the right, shall be a figure of a farmer, with the implements of agriculture, and sheafs of wheat standing erect and recumbent; and in the distance, a locomotive and train of cars; [while] supporting the shield, on the left, shall be the figure of a smith with anvil and hammer; and in the distance, water, with a steamboat…" It also provided for a Latin motto, "Imperium in Imperio" [a state within a state], to appear at the bottom of the shield.

While the re-design was put forth with good intention, the state budget did not contain the necessary funds for implementation. So it was, in 1868, that a newly elected legislature revoked the design and effectively returned it to the 1803 original.

Despite the lack of funds, the 1866 version and adaptations thereof are said to have appeared regularly within the state from that year until around 1880. Combinations of the 1866 and 1888 versions are also to be expected.

Painted sometime during the second half of the 19th century, the device illustrated on this particular Ohio banner represents the 1868 return to the original design, yet incorporates some of the 1866 elements, including the shield border with its fanciful scrollwork. The billowing streamer below the shield was also part of the 1866 format, yet the "Imperium in Imperio" slogan was omitted and simply replaced by the word "Ohio." Because the motto glorified states' rights, it had been a very odd choice for a Northern State in the wake of the Civil War, especially since it was approved by the anti-slavery, Republican, Ohio legislature. What is even more strange is that it was actually removed in 1868 by the newly elected Democrats.

Just 10 arrows appear on this version, instead of the prescribed 17 consistent in both the 1803 original and the 1866 re-do. This can probably be chalked up to carelessness on part of the painter, who was probably looking at a small sketch, if not an actual 2" or 2.5" embossed seal, possibly with some notes regarding the required colors and no clue as to the importance in the number of shafts.

Another banner survives, in the same basic style, representing the State of Illinois. This was most certainly produced by the same maker, probably painted by the same hand, and delivered as part of a series. Because the device on that banner reflect elements proposed by Illinois Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale in 1867, yet subsequently rejected when a new design was approved in 1868, one can surmise that these two banners have a very narrow window of possible production.

If I knew nothing else about either banner, save an examination of the construction and painted surface, I would date them ca 1870-1890. This time period intersects with the era one would expect from the combination of the elements within the respective state seals.

Knowing banners of this exact type were often displayed to decorate and/or mark the locations of state delegates at political conventions, research was undertaken to identify similar forms in 19th century images. The most likely date seemed to be 1868, but I was already very familiar with the illustration of Tammany Hall in that year, as decorated for the Democrat National Convention, and I knew that this style was not pictured. In addition, I knew of another style of banner probably used elsewhere in the Democrat venue in that year, or else outdoors in accompanying celebratory processions. An image of the 1868 Republican counterpart, held in Chicago at Crosby's Opera House, was much more difficult to locate, but when I tracked that down I discovered it surprising void of the usual display of buntings and flags.

Turning my focus to engravings from other conventions, I examined everything I could find between 1856 and 1900. I found similar banners were displayed in just two halls, both in 1872 and thus remarkably just one presidential election year later than expected. This was the race when incumbent Republican President Ulysses S. Grant faced off against former Republican power broker and newspaper publisher, Horace Greeley, who ran on an independent ticket that was endorsed by Democrats. The Republican convention in that year was held in Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, while the Democrat convention was held in Baltimore at Ford's Opera House. Detailed illustrations of both survive and clearly display what appear to be white banners, of a similar scale, featuring state crests, lining the balconies at both locations. While the scalloping at the bottom of the banners differs slightly, this may be attributed to artist's liberty. Engravings could not be completed on site and slight deviations were to be expected.

I am not aware of any other 19th century banners of this nature to exist that represent Ohio. Because early flags with some sort of tie to the state are practically as rare, the survival of this graphically pleasing textile offers a unique opportunity for a collector to own a historically intriguing piece of Ohio history.

Notes on Construction: Hand-painted on heavy cotton, glazed/varnished, and mounted to a wooden rod with an eyelet at each end. There are two brass grommets. A fragment of braided hemp rope remains tied to the right-hand grommet.

Mounting: The banner 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 presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was 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 plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There are minor paint and fabric losses along the bottom. There is craquelure throughout and some soiling, but the overall condition is excellent , especially give the scale and the period of manufacture.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1868
Latest Date of Origin: 1880
State/Affiliation: Ohio
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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