Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: ws-076
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 16.75" x 21"
Flag Size (H x L):
Oriental-made, twill-woven silk fan with gilt lettering that reads : "Bissell's 'Cyco Ball Bearing Carpet Sweeper' makes sweeping easy," set within an interesting, open, geometric design. A purposefully curved, paper label beneath was applied by the "Michigan Equal Suffrage Association, Kalamazoo, 405 So. Burdick St.," whose byline is along the bottom. On it, a terrific message reads:

"OVER 100,000 WOMEN pay taxes in Michigan on property assessed at $177,596,938. In 1910 OVER 175,000 MICHIGAN WOMEN signed a petition sent to Congress asking for Equal Suffrage. 247,373 MICHIGAN MEN voted for Equal Suffrage in 1912. MICHIGAN WOMEN WANT TO VOTE. MICHIGAN MEN SHOULD HELP THEM. The good of the state demands the CO-OPERATION of MEN and WOMEN. Equal Suffrage is coming. LET MICHIGAN LEAD not FOLLOW."

Melville and Anna Bissell ran a crockery and glass shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tired of sweeping dust off the floor, Melville invented a carpet sweeping machine, which he patented in 1876. This pre-dated electric counterparts by approximately 50 years. Customers frequently having asked if they could somehow acquire one, production of the sweeper began on the shop's second floor in 1883. When Melville passed of pneumonia at the young age of 45, in 1889, Anna took over the company, becoming one of America's first female executives. In 1919 she formally became chairman of the firm, which made her our nation's first female CEO.

Michigan had a storied history in the Suffrage movement. In 1866, Michigan's first women's suffrage bill was defeated by just one vote in the Michigan State Legislature. Four years later, in 1870, the Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1870 in Battle Creek, home of the Kellogg Company and in close proximity to Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. In that same year, the state Legislature passed its first suffrage bill, only to have it voted down by then-Governor Henry Baldwin. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled throughout the state in the 1870's and 80's, mobilizing and inspiring Grand Rapid's resident Emily Burton Ketcham. In 1884, the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association (MESA)--the organization advertised on this fan, was formed in the city of Flint, and in 1899, Ketcham, who had become president of MESA, hosted the state convention in Grand Rapids. Local business women and philanthropist, Anna Bissell, was a natural fit for the suffrage movement and one of its strong supporters. In addition, the Bissell name and product were fast becoming well respected by women across America.

The fan, the Bissells, and the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association are connected with both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Melvin Bissell opened a grocery store in Kalamazoo with his father, Alpheus, in 1862. This is where he met and married Anna. He sold the store in 1869 and, having begun to produce and sell stoneware, he and Anna moved to Grand Rapids to open the crockery store in 1870. In 1916, the year in which this fan was produced, the president of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association was Mrs. Orton H. Clark of Kalamazoo. MESA's annual convention was held in Grand Rapids, and it would seem that Anna Bissell commissioned and gifted the fans for this event. As the fans are hand-painted, imported, and lettered in gold gilt, it would appear that Anna spared little expense for the celebratory objects for use in her local community, advertising the Bissell name and MESA.

The message on the fan is very well formulated and delivered. The organization seems to have approached the subject of Suffrage in a scholarly fashion. In 1911, Harry E. Hunt authored a book entitled "Michigan Laws Relating to Women And Girls: A Comprehensive Digest of the Statutory Law And Amendments There to as They Relate to Women and Girls ; also, Pointed Decisions of the Supreme Court of Michigan Affecting Same," published by MESA in both that year and 1915. During WWI (U.S. involvement 1917-18), work by women in support of the war effort garnered a lot of male endorsement across the nation for woman suffrage, something that wasn't lost on Michigan voters. A woman state suffrage law appeared on the November 1918 Michigan ballot and was passed by a margin of approximately 55%. After the 19th Amendment, approving suffrage, was passed by Congress on June 5th, 1919, Michigan became one of the first three states to ratify the decision just 5 days later, on June 10th (sources differ as to whether Michigan was technically the second or third state, but all three approved on the same day). It would not be until more than a year later, on August 18th, 1920, when the required count of 36 states had ratified and the amendment became law.

Anna Bissell passed in 1934.

Mounting: The fan 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 textiles and have framed thousands of examples.

The two-part frame consists of a black-painted and hand-gilded Italian molding, to which a flat profile molding, made of Caribbean mahogany, with a surface that is nearly black, with reddish undertones and highlights, was added as a liner. The frame was converted into a deep shadowbox to accommodate the object. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are splits in the brittle, silk fabric, accompanied by modest to moderate foxing and staining. There is wear and fading of the paint on the handles. The great rarity of the object well-warrants the condition
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1916
Latest Date of Origin: 1916
State/Affiliation: Michigan
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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