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  1860 ABRAHAM LINCOLN CAMPAIGN PARADE FLAG WITH 33 STARS IN AN EXTREMELY UNUSUAL VARIATION OF A MEDALLION CONFIGURATION, EXTREMELY RARE, ONE OF PERHAPS JUST TWO KNOWN EXAMPLES

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 16" x 20"
Flag Size (H x L): 8.25" x 12.25"
Description....:
33 star American parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton, with the 1860 Republican ticket printed in blue along the 2nd through the 5th white stripes. Printed in a combination of Roam and standard block letters, this reads: “For President, Abraham Lincoln. For Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin.”

The stars of the flag are arranged in a strange variant of the medallion configuration. To flag enthusiasts, the can appear, at quick glance, to be a standard double-wreath, with significantly larger stars in the center and in each corner of the blue canton. Upon closer inspection, however, the pattern of the small stars is anything but circular and takes some time and effort to decipher. When the flag is viewed on the obverse (front), the most distinct feature within the pattern is a line of small stars that connects 3 of the larger ones, dissecting the canton left-to-right at an upward, 45 degree angle. A second linear formation divides the canton vertically at the center. Then there are two diamond formations, two triangular formations, and two single stars, each opposing the other in various positions. The diamonds, comprised of 4 stars each, flank the large center star to the left and right. The triangles are located northwest and southeast of center, in the void between the large stars. The single stars can be found in the southwest and northeast quadrants, in the vortexes created by the aforementioned vertical and diagonal lines of stars. Only two copies of this exact flag are known, both of which I have had the privilege to own.

Past the obvious lack of apparent reasoning for the bizarre configuration, one of the strangest things about this flag is the existence of a nearly identical version of it, yet with the small stars neatly arranged. About equally rare, I know of approximately two examples of it as well, one of which I owned. The other is documented in “Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present”, by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1979), as item 290 on page 156. In the Collins text, the flag is listed as being among the holdings of the Chester County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society. The same exact flag is now documented as being in the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection at the Indiana State Museum, perhaps having changed hands.

Based upon the color of the blue pigment and the lettering, I expect that both styles were very likely produced by prolific Philadelphia flag-maker H.C. Howard. Howard is suspected to have produced a variety of sizes and styles, with a variety of star configurations, for numerous presidential candidates in 1856, 1860, 1864, and probably 1868. The proximity of Philadelphia to adjacent Chester County tens to support this theory.

Oregon entered the Union as the 33rd state on February 14th (Valentines Day), 1859. The 33 star flag was official from 1859-1861, and was thus still the official flag when Ft. Sumter was fired upon on April 12th of that year. This event marked the beginning of the Civil War, and a 33 star flag was flying at Ft. Sumter during the attack. Because the 34th state, Kansas, had already acquired statehood on January 29th, 1861, the 34 star flag was to become official on July 4th. For this reason, 33 star flags were not generally not produced for the war, which would last until 1865, and 33 star flags were generally made pre-war. It is for this reason that 33 star examples are far-and-away more scarce than their 34, 35, and 36-star counterparts.

Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, 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. The only consistent private use prior to 1861 seems to have accompanied political campaigning.

Even the military did not use the national flag in a manner that most people might think. Most people are surprised to learn that the infantry wasn't authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until well into the 19th century. The foremost purpose before the Civil War (1861-65) was to identify ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground forces were limited to the those of their own regiment and a perhaps a federal standard (a blue or buff yellow flag bearing the arms of the United States). Artillery units were the first to be afforded the privilege in 1834. Infantry followed in 1841, but cavalry not until 1862. The first actual war in which the Stars & Stripes was officially carried was thus the Mexican War (1846-48). In more than 20 years of aggressive buying and research, I have encountered almost no American national flags produced in an obvious military style that are of the Mexican War period.

It is interesting to note that Lincoln was hardly the favorite at the beginning of the campaign, winning the Republican nomination from the 3rd ticket. He then defeated John Bell (Constitution Party), John Breckinridge (Southern Democrat), and Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrat), to become the Republican party’s first president. Lincoln was elected with a mere thirty-nine percent of the vote and carried no state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Hannibal Hamlin, our nation’s first Republican vice president, was born in Maine in 1809. He was an attorney who, in his political career prior to the White House, served as Chairman of the Maine State House of Representatives, as a U.S. Congressman and Senator, and as Governor of the State of Maine. He was a Democrat until 1856, but was an opponent to slavery. He did not run with Lincoln in the second campaign in 1864, but did return to the U.S. Senate from 1869-1881 and served as Minister to Spain from 1881-82.

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 exceptional American molding has a paint-decorated surface, retains its original gilded liner, and dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. Spacers keep the glazing away from the textile, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is minor foxing and soiling, accompanied by modest fading of the red-orange stripes. There are tiny holes along the hoist end, where the flag was once tacked to its original wooden staff. There is minor misprinting, minor transfer of the blue pigment, and extremely minor fraying along the fly end. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the great rarity and desirability of Lincoln campaign flags warrants almost any condition issues, especially those so minor as are present in this example.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 33
Earliest Date of Origin: 1860
Latest Date of Origin: 1860
State/Affiliation: Oregon
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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