|HAND-PAINTED PATRIOTIC BANNER WITH THE SEAL OF THE STATE OF KENTUCKY AND SPECTACULAR PRESENTATION, WITH GREAT FOLK QUALITIES, PROBABLY MADE FOR THE 1868 DEMOCRAT NATIONAL CONVENTION IN NEW YORK CITY
|Frame Size (H x L):||Approx. 80" x 50"|
|Flag Size (H x L):||Approx. 65" x 34"|
|Swallowtail format, patriotic vertical banner bearing the name and seal of the State of Kentucky. Made in the period between 1861 and the 1876 centennial of American independence, the textile is entirely hand-painted on heavy cotton. This is the only stars & stripes format, 19th century banner pertaining to the state, or bearing 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 20 visible stars and an interpretation of the device of the state, executed in a folk style. Below this, on a field of 11 vertical stripes, is a medallion set within beautiful, gilded scrollwork. The seal is a loose interpretation of the actual. It shows two well-appointed gentlemen, with clasped hands and arms on each-other’s shoulders, in reverent agreement. Behind them and to the left is a bookcase, and to the right, on a claw foot, round table, are an inkwell and quill, and a document which they have presumably just signed. These are taken from the Kentucky’s state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” is arched above, along the upper border of the device.
When the General Assembly of Kentucky first met, in Lexington, shortly after Kentucky was granted statehood, legislators charged the Governor with the creation and adoption of a state seal. Upon doing so, they dictated that the device should depict "two friends, in hunter's garb, their right hands clasped, their left resting on each other's shoulders, their feet on the verge of a precipice." This was to be a literal rendering of the state motto.
As with many American coats of arms, written or verbal explanations seem to have deviated significantly from the interpretation of any particular artist who produced them. The initial person employed in that task for Kentucky was Lexington Silversmith David Humphries, who chose to illustrate the men in long-tailed coats.
During the Civil War, in 1862, the General Assembly of the Commonwealth decreed that the two figures should be a pioneer, in fringed buckskin, clasping hands with a gentleman. The popular myth is that the frontiersman was to represent the iconic woodsman, Daniel Boone, who explored and settled the state, though this is unlikely to have been the original intent back in 1792, as Boone was serving in the Virginia Legislature in 1791, had accumulated significant debt in Kentucky, and didn’t return to the state to reside until 1795, leaving again in 1798. A remarkable man in all respects, he was nonetheless in somewhat ill favor around the time of the seal’s creation.
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. Others in the same form are known for Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas, and Massachusetts, as well as New York City. The presence of the New York City example strongly suggests that whatever event they were used at occurred in New York.
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.
Whatever the case may be, the textile is a boldly graphic, colorful survivor of the latter 19th century, and the only patriotic banners I know to exist with the state seal.
Construction: Painted on cotton canvas, 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.
Provenance: Christies Auction, 2002. Illustrated in “Stars & The Stripes: Patriotic Motifs in American Folk Art” by Deborah Harding, (2002, Rizzoli International Publications, New York,) p. 52-53. The Harding text likely is incorrect by attempting to identify the illustration as depicting the Crittenden Compromise. In my opinion, neither man resembles former Kentucky Congressman and Governor, United States Senator and Attorney General, John J. Crittenden. Whether shown as gentlemen or woodsmen, the two figures on the myriad of depictions of the Kentucky State Seal always have different clothing, different styles of hair, etc. Perhaps the paper falling off the table is suggestive of the failed Crittenden measure to keep slavery constitutional, and hopeful agreement within the state to leave it behind, but the bookcase and table, with quill and pen, appear regularly in some of the earliest illustrations of the seal.
Mounting: The banner was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and presentation of flags and have preserved thousands of examples.
The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The mount was placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. A shadowbox was created to accommodate the staff. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas). Feel free to contact us for more details.
Condition: The striped portion of the banner, below the centerpoint of the device, had experienced both pigment loss and soiling. This was carefully cleaned and some of the color was professionally restored. The staff was shortened just slightly. There are minor losses elsewhere, but no restoration was undertaken in the device or the upper register.
|Collector Level:||Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings|
|Flag Type:||Parade flag|
|Earliest Date of Origin:||1861|
|Latest Date of Origin:||1876|
|Price:||Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281|