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  LARGE SCALE, PRINTED SILK KERCHIEF FEATURING CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS AND EIGHT OF HIS STAFF, AN EXTREMELY RARE EXAMPLE IN THE ONLY KNOWN STYLE PRODUCED FOR THE CONFEDERACY DURING THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD, AND THE BEST OF THOSE KNOWN TO HAVE SURVIVED

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 49.25" x 46"
Flag Size (H x L): 37.5" x 35.5"
Description....:
On February 9, 1861, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected Provisional President of the Confederate States of America, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia was elected Provisional Vice President. Both men took office on February 18, 1861 for a six-year term that was supposed to last from February 22, 1862 – February 22, 1868.

Printed on silk and in the sort of large scale that typifies pre-1876 designs, this rare variety of American political kerchief is truly unique. In the center is a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, surrounded by Southern foliage. Davis is flanked north, south, east and west by portraits of Confederate General Joe Johnston, Navy Commander Raphael Semmes (Captain of the Confederate raider Alabama), Minister to Napoleon III, John Slidell, and Minister to Queen Victoria, James Murray Mason. He is flanked in each corner by Confederate Generals John Hunt Morgan (Morgan’s Raiders), Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and P.G.T. Beauregard. Note the nearly beardless portrait of Jackson and that of the completely beardless Lee, which suggest early war production. The presence of Slidell and Mason also suggest that it was made early in the war. These two men were victims of an 1861 incident known as the “Trent Affair”, in which they were captured by the Union Navy on their respective routes to Paris and London. Each ovoid medallion is artfully trimmed with a similar wreath and cotton plants complete the perimeter.

Three examples of this very rare kerchief exist in the collection of the Smithsonian, one of which is documented in "Threads of History, Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 - the Present," by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press), item 317, p. 166. Another belonging to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia is documented in "Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War," by Shaw, Madelyn and Zacek Basset, Lynne (2014, American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA), p. 178. The Museum of the Confederacy example was never hemmed for use and along the lower edge the following inscription is printed: "Registered by W.H. Tucker Kayess London for 1863, 1864, 1865," along with the initials "C.G." According to Shaw and Zacek Basset, William Henry Tucker Kayess operated from Milk Street but his printing is said to have been done by Langley Printworks in Macclesfeld near Manchester. They indicate the initials "C.G." as unknown. This could be the mark of Collin Gillespie & Co., a textile manufacturer and merchant in the export business, known to have provided political kerchiefs for the American market in the first quarter of the 19th century, or perhaps Charles Gray, another Scottish textile merchant. Perhaps these particular goods were instead printed by Gillespie or Gray instead of by Langely. The date on the trademark proves that these were being produced as late as 1865, the closing year of the war. Whether or not they were produced earlier than the 1863 trademark is unknown. This seems likely because as the war progressed there was less frivolity and perhaps fewer items worth running through Union blockades for Southern consumption.

One might say that collectors of American political campaign items and Civil War relics cross swords on this unique style of political textile, which is a great crossover piece. Across all known examples produced during the war, this is the only design that features President Davis. Due to this fact, surviving copies represent the only possible means by which a collector of large scale political textiles can truly own a period example from every American president. The inclusion of the most significant figures in Confederate service is an incredible addition to these rare and beautiful artifacts of the South and an excellent addition to any significant assemblage of wartime Confederate material.

Davis’s portrait is taken from an image captured by famed photographer Matthew Brady, engraved by H. B. Hall and published by E. Anthony in New York City before 1861. Lee’s image is from an original photo taken by the Bendann Brothers in Baltimore and engraved by an unknown artist. It is likely that the other portraits come from similar photographs, all of which are of pre-war origin.

Unlike the examples illustrated by Collins and Shaw/Zacek Basset, which have purple grounds, the kerchief that is the subject of this narrative displays a saturated shade of royal blue. The only known example in this color, the textile is better suited to a collection of both Confederate and Union objects.

One of the most unique elements, present here but not on the other examples, is a 2.5-inch wide band of what appears to be cotton twine, affixed across the bottom of the fabric. This appears to have been added to strengthen the leading edge, possibly as the bolt of silk used to print the kerchiefs was unrolled for printing. I have never before encountered this feature on any other textile. With an appearance reminiscent of early homespun, the reinforcement adds texture and a good deal of character, as well as scale.

A partially illegible designation, that includes a number that might be “1000” or “4000,” is printed on the reverse of the binding. The purpose of this mark is unknown.

Mounting: The textile was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained 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, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There are minor to modest splits in the silk fabric, as well as minor to modest foxing and staining. There is a broken streak of red along the lower edge, just below the signature. This probably occurred from another kerchief that rested upon it. A trapezoid shaped section of fabric, measuring approximately 1” x 6.5”, is absent along the unusual binding. A patch of similar color and texture was made and underlaid behind this area for masking purposes. Many of my clients prefer early flags and textiles to show their age and history of use. The condition of the silk is remarkable for the period. The great rarity of this particular textile would warrant almost any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1865
Latest Date of Origin: 1865
State/Affiliation: The Confederacy
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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