Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 29" x 34"
Flag Size (H x L): 17" x 22"
36 star American parade flag, made for the 1868 presidential campaign of Ulysses S. Grant and his vice presidential running mate, Schulyer Colfax. The stars are arranged in an unusual fashion that combines a circular medallion with what is known as a "Great Star" (a large star made out of smaller ones). This is termed a "Great-Star-in-a-Wreath" and can be difficult for the casual observer to discern. Note how the circle is quite clear, as are the singular stars in each corner of the blue canton. Inside the wreath, however, the stars at first appear to be randomly jumbled. Close examination is necessary to find the star within the design. When identified, one will note that the each arm of the Great Star terminates with a star that helps to form the circular wreath. One thing that makes this pattern even more unclear than usual is the fact that there are exactly two stars in the very center of the formation, where there would typically be just one. When a single star appears by itself at the center, it is easier for the eye to work out secondary patterns. The presence of two stars makes the pattern look especially disorganized.

Printed on coarse cotton and measuring approximately 17 x 22 inches, the textile is somewhat large in scale among campaign flags of the latter 19th century. Bold and graphically splendid lettering in the striped field reads: "For President, U.S. Grant; For Vice-President, Schuyler, Colfax." Many campaign flags are overprinted in black pigment, but this appears in blue and is thus contemporaneous to the printing of the flag itself. Note the interesting use of commas, which would be omitted in modern times but is typical of the period. Larger campaign flags are appreciated by collectors because they make a bolder statement, as do those that have beautiful star arrangements and large text that consumes much of the available space.

An example of this exact style of flag, made with the exact same print blocks, is among the holdings of the Missouri History Museum. This represents the only other identical flag that I have encountered, though similar flags are known in three different sizes.

An example, measuring 22.5 x 33.25 inches, survives in a private collection, having the same basic star arrangement and the same verbiage in blue, though made with different blocks and employing a different combination of typefaces. Another, in the collection of the Smithsonian, is documented in “Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present” by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press), as item 351 on page 179. Measuring 7.5 x 11.5 inches, this has blue text, in a completely different font, that simply reads: "Grant and Colfax." I bought and sold an even smaller flag, measuring 5.5 x 8 inches, now in a private collection. Displaying just names, like the Smithsonian example, the lettering is all-together different. It is very likely that all four of these versions, which are represented within this rare little group of 5 flags, were produced by the same maker.

Nevada entered the Union as the 36th state on October 31st, Halloween, in 1864. Ushered in by Abraham Lincoln just eight days before the presidential election that resulted in his second term, the territory’s wealth in silver was attractive to a nation struggling with the debts of war and so increased support for the Republican ticket. The 36th star was officially added on July 4th, 1865, but since the flag makers generally cared very little about official star counts, the production of 36 star flags began much earlier. The makers of printed flags are known to have begun adding the 36th star as early as July of 1864, several months before the addition of Nevada actually occurred. This was a common practice during the late 19th century and is reflective of both the nation's desire for Westward Expansion and the hope of flag-makers to bring new star counts to market before their competitors. Nebraska became the 37th state on March 1st, 1867, so by the time of the 1868 presidential election, flags with 37 stars would have been in production for at least 21 months.

On many political campaign flags, the star count actually pre-dates the election year. This probably occurred as a matter of convenience, since the hand-carved wooden blocks used to print them would be readily available from previous versions of flags in various sizes and styles. Flag-makers must have presumed that most buyers of campaign flags would be focused on the lettering and/or images, and would not take the time to count the stars. It would then only be necessary to create new print blocks with the required names, associated verbiage, etc..

Brief History of Ulysses S, Grant & Schyler Colfax:

President and General Ulysses S. Grant was born in Ohio in 1822, the son of a tanner. He was shy and quiet as a youth, and most who knew him then would never have expected forthcoming greatness. Like Robert E. Lee, his eventual Confederate counterpart, Grant was a West Point graduate and fought in the Mexican War. Unlike that of Lee, however, Grant’s early military career was far from illustrious. Forced to leave the Army for insubordination, as a civilian he went through six different jobs in just six years. When war broke out in 1861, he was working for his father’s leather shop in Illinois. Trained officers were scarce, so he soon returned to the Army and was placed in charge of an unruly group of Illinois volunteers that no one else would have. Accounts say that he drilled them nearly to their death, before leading minor, successful campaigns that turned heads and won him a promotion to Brigadier General. Various incidents and problems with alcohol caused many to plead for his dismissal, but Lincoln made the suggestion that “a case of whatever Grant was drinking” be sent to every Union General. “I cannot spare this man”, touted Lincoln, “...he fights.” In March of 1864, Grant’s continued determination caused Lincoln to place him in charge of the entire Union Army. In April of 1865, he cornered the main part of the Confederate Army near Richmond, Virginia, an act that caused the surrender of General Lee and ended the war.

Following the failures of incumbent President, Andrew Johnson, Grant’s hero status won him the 1868 Republican nomination. He was elected, and although many shortcomings would cause Grant’s presidency to be widely criticized, he was known to be terminally honest, exceptionally loyal to his friends and staff (sometimes to a fault), and he was re-elected in 1872. While in office, he fought for equal voting rights for people of all races and colors, pushing the 15th amendment to its 1870 ratification. Grant strove to maintain order in the south with brute force, using the military to protect African Americans and combat southern extremists and hate groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, which had been established in 1866 and was experiencing rapid growth. Grant died in 1885 and was interred in New York City (Grant’s Tomb).

A member of the Whig party, before transitioning to the Know-Nothings and then becoming a Republican, New York City-born Schuyler Colfax served seven terms in congress, including three as Speaker of the House. He was jovial and well-liked by both the mainstream and radicals, which earned him the nickname “Smiler” Colfax. He served with Grant as Vice President for the first term only and was unsuccessful for re-nomination due to allegations of corruption in a business scandal. In 1872 Colfax was replaced by Vice Presidential running mate Henry Wilson, a leading senator from Massachusetts.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree 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. The 2-part frame consists of a black-painted Italian molding with a rectangular shape and a very deep profile, to which a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is significant fading, pigment loss, soiling and oxidation throughout, accompanied by moderate to significant stains and soiling in various areas. There is minor misprinting from folds in the upper half of the canton and extending into the top 3 stripes. There are fabric losses, fraying, and holes, most notably in the upper corner of the hoist end, near the fly end on the top stripe, and all along the fly end. There is a hole near the hoist end in the 8th stripe, a scattering of holes near the fly end of the 2nd stripe, and splits between the 12th and 13th stripe with a small tear extending vertically, along with much less significant occurrences elsewhere. The flag was adhered to mat board all around the perimeter by a former owner. Our conservation staff successfully removed it, with very little impact to the overall appearance on the obverse, but thin fragments of paper were left by necessity on the reverse. Any further removal would have resulted in significant damage. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 36
Earliest Date of Origin: 1868
Latest Date of Origin: 1868
State/Affiliation: Nevada
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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