Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Home  /  Folk Art  /  Carvings & Sculpture





  EAGLE FORM POLITICAL PARADE TORCH FROM THE 1860 or 1864 CAMPAIGN OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Dimensions (inches): The eagle itself is approx. 9" t x 9" w x 2.75" d. The bracket and eagle together are 12.25" t; total height with the staff is 77.5"
Description:
Campaign parade torches were carried in nighttime processions when political candidates marched through cities giving speeches as they ran for public office. They were hollow and generally filled with whale oil or some other manner of fuel, lit by one or more wicks.

One of the most iconic of the many styles that existed is thought to have been made for Lincoln's campaign in 1860, just prior to the Civil War. Shaped like an eagle with two wicks protruding diagonally from the crests of its bent wings, this form was recorded by the Smithsonian's curator of political history, Herbert Ridgway Collins, in a monograph he authored on these objects. An example of it is illustrated as Figure 8 on page 21 of his work, entitled "Political Campaign Torches" (1964, Smithsonian Press, Bulletin 241: Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, Paper 45). Collins loosely dates the form to 1860, but states that it could date as early as the William Henry Harrison campaign of 1840. Although Collins explains that "no patent or contemporary illustration has been found," my personal suspicion is that the form was carried by the Wide-Awakes in 1860 or 1864. This was Lincoln's grass roots political power house, a well-organized fraternal organization that doubled as secret service to protect the President-elect as he marched through cities to give speeches at political rallies. The Wide-Awakes were known for their torch lit parades and their black cloth caps and cloaks were said to have originated from the need to protect themselves and their clothes from dripping oil.

Construction: Made of copper with a gold finish and brass wire.

Condition: There are very minor dents, but the overall condition is excellent, with original patina. The presence of the original wire loop and fitting is particularly nice, because these are often absent.

I have never seen this form of torch actually mounted to its original staff. I suspect that the buyer may have been required to purchase or supply his own. Made of ash or hickory, the staff presented here is roughly period to the torch, but not original. I commandeered it from a flag staff dating to approximately 1860-80. The brass tacks are 19th century. Because the merchants who offered fraternal and campaign regalia typically sold a range of devices, patriotic decorations, flags, and banners, this is exactly the sort of staff I would expect to find.

Measurements: The eagle itself is approx. 9" t x 9" w x 2.75" d. The bracket and eagle together are 12.25" t; total height with the staff is 77.5".
   
Primary Color: brass, gold, brown
Earliest Date: 1860
Latest Date: 1864
For Sale Status: Available
Price $7,800
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
Page Views:... 182