Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: pat-691
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 68" x 58"
Flag Size (H x L): 55" x 47.5" on a 50" staff
Banner with the seal of the State of Mississippi, hand-painted on canvas, with a polychromatic surface, pleasant craquelure, patina, and wear. Retaining its original staff, the banner features a white-painted ground, set between bluish-grey-painted borders to the left and right, with black pinstriping. The lower edge is attractively scalloped, and paint-decorated, to look as if it were fringed with a border of braided, metallic rope. There are heavy metal grommets in the lower two corners, behind which are large, triangular, cotton patches. These are original to the construction. The abbreviate “MISS” is crudely hand-painted on the reverse, in black, at the lowest point. This would have allowed for quick identification among other banners, without having to unroll them.

America secured claim to much of the territory east of the Mississippi River, from Spain, by way of the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo (a.k.a., Pinckney’s Treaty). In 1798, some of the lower portion of present-day Mississippi and Alabama became the Mississippi Territory. Almost immediately, even before its formal incorporation, on April 7th, 1798, the Mississippi Territory’s governing body produced a seal, the design of which took the same basic form as the Great Seal of the United States. Adopted on January 19th, 1798, the device featured a spread winged eagle, with a federal shield upon its breast, holding the usual olive branch in its proper right talon, and arrows in its left. The head of the eagle was turned so that its gaze faced the olive branch, as a symbol of peace. Held in its beak was the usual, billowing streamer, with the Latin motto “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One), above and around which were 13 randomly placed stars, set beneath an arch of clouds. Beyond this, protruding as from behind the entire image, and fanning out in all directions, were rays of sunlight.

The Mississippi Territory was initially comprised of a swath of land that spanned about 1/3 of the present day state, as well as that of Alabama. The line began about half way down their combined expanse, running horizontally across the region. The State of Georgia claimed rights to this area, but could not defend a position of ownership. In 1804, the northernmost half of the two future states was annexed to the Mississippi Territory, with opposing claims made that this was merely part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Then, in 1812, the remaining, southern edge, along the Gulf of Mexico, was finally included. So by that year, the Mississippi Territory encompassed almost all of present-day Alabama.

The Territory gained statehood on December 10th, 1817, and a new seal was adopted about a month later, on January 19th, 1818. This switched the position of the olive branch and arrows, while simultaneously directing the latter inward and down, instead of upward and away. Absent now were the stars, streamer, sun, and clouds, so that only the eagle, arrows, and olive branches remained. Around the perimeter, a descriptive title was added that read: “The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi.”

Just over a year-to-the-day from Mississippi Statehood, the eastern half of the former territory became Alabama, ushered in as an independent state. The Mississippi seal remained constant, however, until 1894, when the state’s Latin motto, “Virtute et Armis” (By Valor and Arms), was added on a banner below, to create the official Mississippi Coat of Arms. This remained in use until 2014, when “In God We Trust” was added to the seal itself, along the lower portion of the circumference.

Painted during the second half of the 19th century, the device illustrated on this particular Mississippi banner, deviates from the official, 1818 version. The eagle, perched above the clouds, on a blue sky, turns its head its proper right, but the points of the arrows, now outward and upward, fall within the general line of its gaze.

Note how the federal shield is purposefully omitted. Made sometime just following the close of the Civil War (1861-1865), most likely during the period of Reconstruction of the South (1865-1876), the absence of such a keen Union symbol is of little surprise. The inclusion of three arrows may likewise be purposeful. Though the meaning is less clear, symbolism of this sort abounds in flags and other patriotic devices of this era.

This banner was once part of a much larger group—a fact evidenced by surviving examples that illustrate other states. In addition to Mississippi, examples of this particular group survive that represent Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York. Four of these six I have owned. If I knew nothing else about them, save my examination of the construction and painted surface, I would date them circa 1870-1890. But additional information can be gleaned from the state devices they display, which changed over time.

The Ohio banner, for example, includes a combination of elements present in both the 1866 and 1868 versions. The Illinois banner reflects imagery proposed by Illinois Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale, in 1867, yet never accepted. Because these features were actually rejected, when a new design was approved just a year later, in 1868, one may surmise a very narrow window of possible production.

Knowing that banners in this basic style and scale were displayed to mark the location of state delegates at political conventions, research was undertaken to identify similar forms in 19th century photographs and illustrations. The most likely date seemed to be 1868, but I was already very familiar with the illustration of Tammany Hall in that year, in Manhattan, as decorated for the New York Democrat National Convention, and I knew that this precise style was not illustrated. I was also aware of another variety that may have been used elsewhere in the Democrat venue that year, but employed a swallowtail design and were likewise not a match.

An image of the 1868 Republican counterpart, held in Chicago at Crosby's Opera House, was much more difficult to locate, but when I tracked that down, I discovered it surprising void of the usual buntings and flags.

Turning my focus to engravings from other conventions, I examined everything I could find between 1856 and 1900. The most similar banners I found were displayed in just two halls, both in 1872, just one election year later than suspected. This was the race when incumbent Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, faced off against former Republican power broker and newspaper publisher, Horace Greeley, who ran on an independent ticket, eventually endorsed by the Democratic Party establishment.

The 1872 Republican convention was held in Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, while the opposing, Democrat convention was held in Baltimore at Ford's Opera House. Detailed illustrations of both survive and clearly display what appear to be white banners, of a similar scale, featuring state crests, lining the balconies at both venues.

Given that the surviving banners of similar form have come from all different sources, it seems likely that they were taken home by delegates following the event. The Mississippi example turned up in Tennessee. The two states border one-another in their northeast / southwest corners. Because banners of this type are extremely rare, and because very little in the way of 19th century flags or patriotic textiles exist that in any way relate to Mississippi, this is an extraordinary object and a remarkable relic of the state.

Mounting: The banner was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and presentation of flags and related textiles, and have preserved thousands of examples.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for colorfastness. 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: There is modest soiling throughout, accompanied by moderate areas of the same, especially in the upper right-hand quadrant of both the device and the white field. There is some creasing, craquelure, and associated paint loss, the latter of which is present in the lower register, from the word “Mississippi” down to the painted fringe. There is a 3-inch, J-shaped tear below the lettering, in the white region, and there is a lateral tear, of similar size, below it, in the painted border, where other, smaller tears are also present, both adjacent and nearby. Several, small, rectangular patches were added. The extreme rarity of state flags and banners, especially from a state like Mississippi, for which almost no 19th century material exists, well-warrants its state of preservation.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1868
Latest Date of Origin: 1880
State/Affiliation: Mississippi
War Association:
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281