Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: ker-242
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 31.5" x 32.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 23" x 24"
The style of this printed cotton kerchief, made for the 1888 presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison & Levi Morton, is based upon a July 31, 1888 patent (No. 18,497) obtained by Rufus H. Rose of New York. One may argue that the graphics solicit one of the most striking illustrations of a political platform of all the textiles discussed thus far. The names of the candidates are arched above a fierce bald eagle, with her wings spread to protect a nest of three eaglets. In case the viewer does not get the metaphor, “PROTECTION” is printed in bright red letters below the scene. This slogan is repeated over and over on Harrison textiles, stating the Republican policy for high tariffs to protect American industry.

Two other tenets of the Republican platform, “Civil Service Reform” and “Reduction of Surplus,” are printed below the scene. Republicans had been fighting for civil service reform since the Hayes Presidency. Harrison eventually reduced the troublesome federal budget surplus--ironically caused by the high tariffs for which he campaigned-- by enacting the Dependent and Disability Pension Act (1890) to provide pensions to disabled Civil War veterans and their families.

When referencing flags and patriotic textiles with 39 stars, vexillologists often cite that the 39th star represents the anticipation of the future statehood of the Dakota Territory. On this kerchief, each of the 39 stars linked around the border bears an abbreviation of a state, except one. The abbreviation "Dak." for Dakota appears in the third star from the bottom left corner, along the lower edge. Because the territory was split into North and South when the two states actually joined as number 39 and 40 on November 2nd of 1889, there was never a time when we had exactly 39 states.

Rose's patent shows a similar kerchief designed for Grover Cleveland in the same year, with the large eagle in a different pose, among other various differences, but there is presently no evidence that the Cleveland version was ever produced. Whatever the case may be, no similar kerchiefs are presently known that feature an eagle as the primary element.

It is interesting to note that Rose's patent for the Cleveland version, applied for on June 29, 1888, shows 38 stars, excluding the Dakota Territory. The decision to include the 39th state was either by partisan request or an adaptation made by Rose and/or the manufacturer closer to Election Day.

Some feel that this may be considered among the greatest political kerchiefs of the 19th century. Of the 1501 textiles illustrated in his 1979 book for the Smithsonian, Collins placed this among the 12 textiles highlighted on the cover.

Brief History of Harrison & Morton:
Benjamin Harrison was born in Ohio. He studied law in Cincinnati before moving to Indiana, where he set up a very successful practice. During the Civil War he served his new state in command of the 70th Volunteer Infantry. He was brevetted brigadier general before the war’s end and was afterwards very active in the G.A.R and a strong proponent of veteran’s matters. Harrison was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 1880 and served until 1887. He won the presidency in 1888, in an election that focused mostly on the economics of free trade.

Harrison’s opponent, Democrat Grover Cleveland, adhered to tradition and refused to campaign as the incumbent president; a move that probably cost him the election. Cleveland was an imposing, five-foot eleven, two-hundred-sixty-pound man who was thought of as a ‘regular Joe’. By stark contrast, Harrison, was just five feet, six inches tall. Democrats called him "Little Ben", yet Republican supporters maintained that he was big enough to wear the hat of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States and hero of a famous conflict against a confederacy of Native American tribes, against their leader, Tecumseh, in “the Battle of Tippecanoe.”

  Levi Morton was born in Shoreham, Vermont. The son of a Congregationalist minister, he was a school teacher-turned merchant and banker who moved to New York, where he was elected to Congress representing that state and served for two terms. James Garfield asked Morton to be his vice presidential running mate, but Morton declined. Had he accepted and history otherwise ran its course, Morton would have become the 21st President following Garfield's 1881 assassination. During his term as vice president, Morton stood in the way of Harrison's Lodge Bill, which would have enforced the voting rights of Southern blacks. Harrison's anger at Morton caused him to choose a different running mate in 1892. Afterwards Morton became Governor of New York, a position he served between 1895-96.

Harrison won the White House in 1888, but in 1892 became one of the few incumbent presidents to lose it. In doing so, Grover Cleveland gained the White House for a non-consecutive, second term—the only time such a circumstance has occurred, thus far, in American history.

Mounting: The kerchief has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was then placed in a two-part frame that consists of a shadowbox style molding with a step-down profile molding, dark brown in color, nearly black, with reddish undertones and highlights, to which a flat profile molding, with a finish like old gun metal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic (Plexiglas).

Condition: Exceptional for the period, with only extremely light discoloration and very minor fading.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count: 39
Earliest Date of Origin: 1888
Latest Date of Origin: 1888
State/Affiliation: South Dakota
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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