HAND-PAINTED PATRIOTIC BANNER WITH THE SEAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE AND GREAT FOLK QUALITIES, PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 1868 DEMOCRAT NATIONAL CONVENTION IN NEW YORK CITY |
Frame Size (H x L):|
74" x 52.5"|
Flag Size (H x L):|
65" x 34"|
Swallowtail format, patriotic vertical banner bearing the name and the seal of the State of Delaware. Made in the period between 1861 and the 1876 centennial of American independence, the textile is entirely hand-painted on heavy cotton or linen. This is the only stars & stripes format, 19th century banner with this heraldic image that I have ever encountered in private hands.Note the bold and interesting imagery, which includes a modernistic, folded streamer on a cornflower blue field of 23 visible stars. There is an endearing primitive nature in the stern faces of the farmer and minuteman. Artists painting state seals in early America exercised great liberty in their work. Note how the farmer holds a spade but is clearly clothed as a sailor and his hand upholds the three-masted tall ship at the top center of the shield--a feature not usually present. The hat of the soldier is likewise that of a seaman and both of the figures, along with the ship, recognize the importance of the sea to the state of Delaware. The arched stripe in the center of the shield is supposed to be blue to represent the Delaware River, but here is incorrectly colored red, perhaps to symbolize the blood of war or perhaps simply by accident, the artist failing to recognize its importance or perhaps working from a black and white image or even a verbal description.
This particular example was found among a series of banners representing Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Louisiana, and New York City. One representing Kansas is also known. Kansas joined the Union in 1861. Unless like banners were produced for some of the Western Territories, in anticipation of future statehood, the group dates no earlier than that year. The presence of the New York City example suggests that whatever event they were used at occurred in New York.
Based upon the minor to significant deviations from "official" designs that are present among the other banners, it seems likely that whomever was painting the devices was probably working from a series of drawings or perhaps, in some cases, even written descriptions. There would have been no widely available book or chart that would contain every state seal and even if there was, it would not have been kept up-to-date with yearly revisions. Nineteenth century flag-makers would have had to make do with whatever information was available to them.
Banners of this type were often hoisted on single vertical staffs that held the rope aloft in the center. This basic style was both carried in parades and affixed on mounts indoors. Similar decorations and banners can be seen along the walls at early political conventions, or hoisted among benches, where they denoted the positions of the seating of attendees from various states. The 1868 Democrat National Convention was held in Manhattan at Tammany Hall. A colorful illustration, printed for Joseph Shannon’s Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, shows the interior of the building masterfully festooned with patriotic banners, medallions, and buntings of similar nature, but none that match this particular style. Only the front and central interior are pictured, but two full sets of state identifying decorations are shown. This banner and its mates could well have hung elsewhere on the premises. No Republican National Conventions were held in New York during the 19th century.
An alternative possibility is that the banners were used in festivities pertaining to the centennial of American independence in 1876, either in New York or at an event such as the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, a six-month long World's Fair event, where a city like New York probably had its own pavilion, along with each individual state.
From 1793 until 1847 the figures of the farmer and the soldier were eliminated from the seal and in 1847 the motto "Liberty and Independence," was added on a ribbon underneath the shield, so the design post-dates that year. The presence of a banner for the state of Kansas precludes manufacture before 1861, when Kansas became a state.
Whatever the case may be, the textile is a boldly graphic, colorful survivor and presently represents the only privately held banner of its kind that I am aware of with the device of Delaware.
Construction: Painted cotton or linen tacked to a wooden staff with acorn finials that is original to the banner. A length of red wool tape was used to reinforce the point where the tacks are affixed.
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 background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian. A shadowbox was created to accommodate the staff. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.
Condition: There is minor soiling and there was minor to moderate paint loss, especially towards the bottom of the stripe field. Professional restoration was undertaken, particularly to strengthen the presentation in this area, but great care was taken to tread lightly and preserve the original condition.
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