Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 13j-1574
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 21" x 27"
Flag Size (H x L): 11.25" x 17.75"
Rare and exceptional, 13 star American parade flag, printed on cotton, made for the 1856 presidential campaign of John Frémont and William Dayton. Frémont holds the important distinction of being the nation’s first Republican presidential candidate. His was the anti-slavery platform and a favorite slogan was "Frémont and Freedom." The Republican Party had been formed in that very same year and was an outgrowth of the Whig party, the Liberty Party, and the “Free-Soilers”, which simultaneously evaporated, plus a portion of the American Party (better known as the “Know-Nothings”) that more vigorously opposed slavery. Former members of all these groups united in a common goal to impede the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Among known flags made for Frémont, all of which are rare, this is one of the Holy Grails, primarily due to the presence of his portrait, which appears in an oval window in the striped field. In the world of campaign parade flags, those that bear a portrait have historically been the most coveted and particularly so when the flags from the campaign are scarce in any form. Five or perhaps six Frémont portrait flags are presently known, all of which are privately owned. Just two Frémont flags are pictured in "Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present", by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, (1979, Smithsonian Press), which serves as the Bible of political flag collecting. Neither is a portrait flag.

This popular image of Frémont, in civilian garb, is engraved from a photograph, a copy of which exists in the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library (photographer unidentified).

Another wonderful trait present in this flag is the title, "Freedom's Candidates," that appears in the first white stripe. Past the fact that words like "Freedom," "Liberty," and "Independence" are extremely desirable on any patriotic American object, slogans of this nature are scarce in their own right. Slogans are present on only about 10% of all known presidential campaign parade flag designs, and this small percentage are among the most scarce. In other words, slogans are not only rare on parade flags, but those styles that do have slogans are often one-of-a-kind or one of a scant few in that exact form.

The stars of the flag are arranged in a rectangular box with a single star in the center. This rare and highly coveted design is what's referred to among flag aficionados as the "Trumbull" pattern, named after the artist John Trumbull (b. 1743, d. 1853), who for a brief time served as George Washington's aide-de-camp, as well as within the staff of General Horatio Gates. Even though ground forces weren't formally authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the 1830's, Washington at least is thought to have probably done so. Trumbull included American flags with his former commander, with stars arranged in a boxed medallion, in several versions of his most notable works. Because Trumbull left the army before the Act of Congress that created the American national flag was passed (June 14th, 1777), and because all of his views that included the flag were painted post-war, there is some question regarding whether or not the Stars & Stripes was actually present. Whatever the case may be, it can reasonably be presumed that the Trumbull pattern was being displayed somewhere during the Revolution. Note the huge size of the center star in this particular example, as well as the irregularity present in the alignment of the stars around the perimeter, both of which contribute to the flag's strong folk qualities.

Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. Private use of the national flag rose swiftly during the patriotism that accompanied the Civil War, then exploded in 1876 during the centennial of American independence.

Even the military did not use the flag in a manner that most people might think. The primary purpose before the Civil War was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark some garrisons, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment, with a design peculiar unto itself, and perhaps a standard that featured the numeric designation on a painted or embroidered streamer, on a solid buff yellow or blue ground. Most people are surprised to learn that ground forces were not authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until it was assigned to artillery regiments in 1834. Infantry was afforded the privilege in 1841, just prior to the Mexican War (1846-1848), while cavalry regiments were not authorized until the second year of the Civil War, in 1862.

The only regular non-military use of the flag between 1840 and 1861 was for political campaigning.

Brief History of Frémont & Dayton:
John Charles Frémont was born in Savannah, GA on January 21st, 1813. The illegitimate son of a poor, French refugee and a prominent Virginia society woman, Frémont improved his social status by marrying Jessie Benton, daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, a leading Democrat and slave-owner. Nicknamed “The Pathfinder”, Frémont led expeditions in the west both prior to and during the Mexican War. He is credited as being the first Caucasian to view Lake Tahoe, and he made the determination that the Great Basin didn’t open to the sea. During the Mexican War, he led a unit into California to defeat General Pico. In doing so, Frémont’s men captured the Presidio and the surrounding area, and though Pico was in Los Angeles at the time, Pico realized that the war was effectively over and later surrendered.

Frémont proclaimed himself Military Governor of California in 1847, only to be brought up on charges of treason by a higher ranking Army officer, but pardoned by President Polk because of his contributions to the war. Frémont went on to become one of California’s first two senators, and he became rich in the Gold Rush. In 1856, Frémont’s popularity and hard stance on the abolition of slavery led him to become the youngest man to ever run for the White House, and the first to run on an anti-slavery ticket. He was defeated by James Buchanan because the slave states threatened to secede and the nation as a whole was not ready for the great separation that would follow.

Lincoln appointed Frémont major general in May of 1861 and placed him in charge of the Department of the West. He personally fronted a good deal of money for the war effort, but was removed from duty for insubordination due to his freewheeling approach to the seizure of secessionist property and the emancipation of slaves. Republican allies supporting Frémont caused Lincoln to reconsider and reappointed him in 1862 to the newly formed Mountain Department, but Frémont resigned a couple of months later because of further differences. He was generally unsuccessful as a military leader, suffering several major defeats. He did begin another presidential bid in 1864, siding with the Radical Republicans, but eventually he withdrew and supported Lincoln. Frémont became territorial governor of Arizona in the 1870’s and died in New York City in 1890.

William Lewis Dayton was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey in 1807. Dayton was an attorney and Judge who became a United States Senator representing New Jersey, serving the Whig Party in Congress from 1841 – 1851. He returned to law before being selected as the first Republican vice presidential candidate in 1856. After defeat, he served as New Jersey’s Attorney General from 1857-1861. He was then appointed Minister to France, a post he served until his death in 1864.

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 related objects and have framed thousands of examples.

The gilded American molding has a rippled profile, outstanding, early surface, and dates to the 1830's. To this an 1830's molding with a scooped profile, mahogany veneered, and with a wonderful, crusted and bubbled surface, was added as a liner. The flag has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There was minor to moderate foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by modest fading in the blue and black pigment and significant fading in the red-orange stripes. There is a series of modest holes and tears along the white area of the hoist, where the flag was once tacked to a wooden staff. These continue into the striped field and canton. There is a small tear in the first red stripe, above the "s" in the word "Candidates," and there is some fraying around the perimeter. The textile was professionally cleaned by our staff, in house. Professional color restoration was undertaken, utilizing a reversible medium, with exceptional results, so lightly applied and so successful that it appears unaltered. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. The flag is exceptionally bold and its rarity warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1856
Latest Date of Origin: 1856
State/Affiliation: California
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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