Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 29.25" x 45"
Flag Size (H x L): 18.25" x 34.25"
45 star American national parade flag, made for the 1900 presidential campaign of McKinley & Roosevelt. Black overprinted text indicates that the flag was made for the Union League in support of their candidacy. Overprinted in black, in the striped field, is the following text: "The Union League; McKinley and Roosevelt; 1900."

The Union League was formed to get Lincoln reelected and force and end to slavery. The first opened in Philadelphia in 1862. New York followed with its own club in 1863. The organizations provided the Republican Party with monetary and organizational support. They also funded the war effort itself. In New York, for example, the club raised and outfitted three volunteer units. The Philadelphia Union League raised its own units and both supported efforts such as the United States Sanitary Commission, which helped treat wounded soldiers. More clubs sprung up later, post-war. During Reconstruction, Union Leagues were formed across the South as working auxiliaries of the Republican Party, and clubs were established throughout the North, with notable chapters in Chicago and San Francisco. Union Leagues discussed political issues, promoted civic projects, and mobilized freed slaves to register and vote. The NY club founded the Metropolitan Museum of Art, played an essential role in the founding of the American Red Cross, constructed the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, and built Grant's Tomb. This was the Republican equivalent of Tammany Hall in some senses, but with more than one location and without the negative connotations/reputation.

William McKinley was a member in both New York* and Philadelphia. He joined the NY chapter in 1897, the year he first took office and his first vice president. William Hobart, McKinley's first vice president, was also a NY member.

Theodore Roosevelt was an active New York member. He managed his early political career from the club’s chambers and chose them as a place to hold interrogations during the time when he served as the city's chief of police.

Flags in this design were almost certainly made for the Philadelphia chapter specifically, because NY uses the word "Club" in its name, as does Chicago, as did San Francisco, and Philly never has. This sets it apart from all of the other locations that I have ever seen referenced. This exact flag was found in greater Philadelphia, which lends further credence to the theory, as does the fact that the 1900 Republican National Convention was held in the city. McKinley would have ran his campaign from the Club's quarters, at the very least during the convention and while he was in town. The building is beyond impressive--one of the greatest of the sort that I have ever seen--and even today, in the 21st century, is considered the number one city club in the nation.

The flag is printed on cotton bunting. There is a treadle-sewn, reinforced cotton binding along the hoist. The left and right edges are selvedge and the top and bottom are bound with treadle stitching. Just five examples in this style are presently known. One resides at the Union League of Philadelphia. Another is in the collection of the New York club. The remaining two, besides this one, are also privately held. One of these is documented in “Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present” by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press).

During most of the 19th century, the concept of using the flag for the purposes of advertising was perfectly acceptable. Many of the first printed flags, which appeared sometime between 1837 and 1840, had political campaign text and/or images. In fact, the earliest datable to a specific year were those made for the 1840 presidential run of Whig William Henry Harrison. In the late 1880’s, there was a growing shift in public opinion to uphold the Stars & Stripes as a sacred object, worthy of more scrupulous consideration regarding its use and display. Attempts were made to ban its use as a medium for advertising in 1890 and 1895, but it was not until the year 1905 that Congress finally decreed that the use of text or portraits on official insignia of the United States would afterwards be outlawed. Some traditions die hard, however, and this did not entirely eliminate it, but both politicians and flag-makers generally abandoned campaign flags when the sway of public perception brought flag ethics to the table. Very few flags were made in 1888 or 1892. In 1896 there are only a couple of known styles for McKinley & Hobart and none at all for Democrat Rivals William Jennings Bryan & Arthur Sewall. In 1900 there are 2 styles for the incumbent McKinley and his new running mate, Theodore Roosevelt, of which this particular Union League style is one. Just 1 variety exists for William James Bryan, McKinley's Democrat opponent, and running mate Adlai Stevenson. In 1904 there are no campaign flags known. Four flags survive (3 examples in one style and 1 in another) that feature portraits of Howard Taft, though it is unknown whether they date from 1908 or 1912. Two styles exist for Woodrow Wilson, one of unknown date and one from his 1916 incumbent campaign.

The presence of text indicating who precisely was responsible for ordering any given campaign flag is extremely unusual. With the exception of flags made by the Wide Awakes for Abraham Lincoln's 1860 campaign, and one single known example made for Grover Cleveland in 1888 by something noted as the "Custom House Brokers | Cleveland & Thurman Campaign Club," parade flags with notation of an organization or business that commissioned them are otherwise unknown. Less unusual, though also notable, is the inclusion of a date.

Another key element is the scale of the flag, which is notably large among known varieties. The average campaign flag measures approximately 11 x 17 inches. Some are smaller and some larger, but the larger they get, the more unusual they are. Collectors tend to prefer larger examples due to both rarity and bold presentation.

Utah became the 45th state in 1896. It had been attempting to gain statehood for many years, but remained a territory, primarily due to the fact that the Mormon Church and Utah authorities continued to be openly tolerant of polygamy. In 1890, Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff published a manifesto that denounced the contract of “any marriages forbidden by the law of the land”. This gave way to Utah’s 1896 acceptance. The 45 star flag was generally used from that year until 1907, when Oklahoma joined the Union. Due to the Spanish-American War (1898) and Teddy Roosevelt’s famous world tour of the “White Fleet” (launched in 1907), this was an extremely patriotic period.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.

The mount was placed in a substantial, black-painted molding, with great early surface, that dates to the latter 1880’s -1890’s and is this approximately period to the flag itself. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There are tears with associated loss along the hoist, where the flag was once tacked to its original wooden staff. There are minor tack holes with minor loss along and near the top and bottom edges, and tiny holes elsewhere. There is moderate fading throughout the red stripes. There is some breakdown in the “th” in the word “The” and the “d” in the word “and” and the “Ro” in the word “Roosevelt.” Tiny patches made of black silk organza were adhered behind these letters as necessary to structurally support the brittle areas, but there were no losses in the lettering and thus nothing was replaced or re-painted. Some of the black pigment in the overprint was transferred to the striped field outside it, but this is very minor, and there is very minor soiling in limited areas. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag is 99% intact, presents well, and the extreme rarity well-warrants any condition issues.

Election Results:

William F. McKinley, Ohio (R) - 51.6% PV, 292 EV
William Jennings Bryan, Nebraska (D) - 45.5% PV, 155
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 45
Earliest Date of Origin: 1900
Latest Date of Origin: 1900
State/Affiliation: Pennsylvania
War Association:
Price: SOLD

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