Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: 31j-852
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 15.75" x 19.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 7.5" x 11.25"
31 star American parade flag, block printed on cotton, made for the 1860 campaign of Constitutional Union Party candidates John Bell & Edward Everett. The stars are arranged in an interesting medallion pattern that, instead of being circular or star shaped, forms a pentagon. A number of variations of the pentagon pattern are known and all are peculiar. In this particular instance, note how the profiles of the stars exhibit the crude, yet whimsical nature of the hand-carved wooden block used to apply pigment to the fabric. Also note that there is a star in each corner of the canton, outside the basic pattern, typical of medallion designs, yet there is also a single star at the very bottom center. A similar star formation, with similarly crude stars, appears on a flag submitted for copyright to the Philadelphia courthouse, by prolific flag-maker H.C. Howard, on July 12, 1860. In his rush to get as many copyrights as possible, he actually combined two designs in one patent, including a written description of a Douglas with 33 stars, across an image of a 31 star flag. Howard copyrighted several flags for all four candidates, in the same month, close on the heels of the national conventions.

The following text is printed in the striped field, in the same blue as the canton: For President, John Bell. For Vice President, Edward Everett. The Union and the Constitution.” Use of punctuation is almost always interesting in overprinted flags, and this is no exception, with commas after the offices, plus large periods after the surnames and slogan.

The 1850-1865 era marked a pivotal time in American party politics. It bore witness to the birth of the Republican Party in 1854, and the end of both the Whigs and the American Party (Know-Nothings), which had basically disappeared by 1860. Lincoln was the Republican candidate, running on the anti-slavery platform. He was hardly the favorite in the beginning of the campaign, winning the party’s nomination from the third ticket.

When the Democrats convened in Charleston in 1860 to nominate a presidential candidate, Douglas succeeded in adding his moderate planks to the party platform. Several Southerners stormed out of the convention, breaking off to form their own party, with John Breckinridge and Joseph Lane as their candidates. Northern Democrats met again in Baltimore a few weeks later and unanimously nominated Douglas for president.

The Democratic Party orchestrated its own demise by splitting into these two factions. John Bell’s Constitutional Union Party, supported by remnants of hardline Whigs, and members of the Know-Nothing Party, split the ballot even further. The fractured field resulted in a win for Lincoln, despite the fact that he didn't even appear on the ballot in several Southern States.

John Bell was born near Nashville, Tennessee in 1797. A 1814 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Bell passed the bar in 1816 and set up a law practice in Franklin. He was elected to the Tennessee State Senate just one year later, in 1817, then declined re-election. He became a U.S. Congressman in 1827, serving 7 terms. During this time he served as Speaker of the House, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, and chairman of the Committee on Judiciary. He served a very brief term as Secretary of War in 1841. In 1847 he was elected to the Tennessee State Congress, and in the same year became a U.S. senator (Whig Party), serving nine years before his run for the presidency.

Bell and his party were the voice of moderation in the rising conflict. They advocated for simply maintaining the Union and enforcing the laws of the Constitution. Bell garnered more than 12.5% of the 1860 vote. This was one of the highest amounts ever received by an independent party candidate; a number only surpassed by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, on the Bull Moose Party ticket, who received a whopping 27.4%. Bell was the leading Whig in Tennessee. He served fourteen years in the House of Representatives and twelve in the Senate, where he supported the Compromise of 1850, voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and opposed admitting Kansas as a slave state. After his loss, in 1860, Bell went with his state to the Confederacy, but did not play a major role in the CSA government.

Bell’s campaign regalia are of keen interest, because he ran against Lincoln at such a critically studied time in American history. Objects with the “The Union and the Constitution” are even more attractive to collectors, because the words are clear, patriotic, and almost as resonant today as they were 160 years ago. They speak not only to the hopeful avoidance of impending war, but to our nation’s founding principles. Lincoln liked the slogan so much, in fact, that he borrowed it for the 1864 election. Hoping to pick up some of the independent and Southern vote, the Republican Party actually changed its name on the 1864 ticket to the “National Union Party.” [This was for the national ticket. State divisions of the Republican Party, for the most part, did not change their names.]

Bell’s Constitutional Union ticket, in 1860, carried just three states: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. Bell died at his home in 1869, near Chattanooga, and is buried near Nashville. Born in Boston in 1794, Edward Everett, is a person of significant interest. After studying abroad, in Germany, he returned to the U.S., as the first American to ever receive a Ph.D. He served as Governor of Massachusetts (1836-40), President of Harvard (1846-49), and as Secretary of State (1852-56) under the administration of Millard Fillmore, following the death of his friend, Daniel Webster. Everett was considered the greatest orator of the time, which is why he was selected to give a speech at Gettysburg in 1863, to dedicate the memorial to fallen soldiers. He spoke for two hours, but Americans will forever remember the day, not for Everett, but for Abraham Lincoln, who was asked to follow with a “few appropriate remarks,” now known as the Gettysburg Address. Everett died in Boston in 1865 and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.

Election Results:
Abraham Lincoln, Illinois (R) - 39.8% (PV), 180 (EV)
Stephen Douglas, Illinois (Northern D) - 21.5% (PV), 12 (EV)
John C. Breckinridge, Kentucky (Southern D) - 14.3% (PV), 72 (EV)
John Bell, Tennessee (Constitutional Union) - 12.6% (PV), 39 (EV)

Mounting: Don’t be fooled by the seemingly backwards orientation. In the 19th century, the same flag ethics that exist today did not apply. In fact, display of the American national flag with the canton in the upper left did not enter the American consciousness, as the one correct manner of presentation, until the end of the 19th century, and was not formally dictated as such until the flag code was adopted in 1923. Prior to this time, it was just as common to see the flag displayed with the canton on the right.

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

The veneered, mahogany molding, with its ogee profile, dates to the period between 1830 and 1860, has exceptional, early surface, and retains its original, gilded, piecrust liner. The background is 100% hemp fabric or a hem and cotton blend (we use both, interchangeably). Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass. Feel free to contact us for more details.

Condition: There is very minor soiling. The last stripe is narrow, either due to an error in layout, or the manner I n which it was trimmed. The overall condition is exceptional.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 31
Earliest Date of Origin: 1860
Latest Date of Origin: 1860
State/Affiliation: Tennessee
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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