|GRAPHIC AND COLORFUL, PORTRAIT STYLE KERCHIEF MADE FOR THE 1848 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF ZACHARY TAYLOR, WITH PORTRAITS OF FOUR OTHER MEXICAN WAR OFFICERS AND A WAVING 30 STAR FLAG
|Frame Size (H x L):
|Approx. 37" x 41"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|24.75" x 29"
|Of all American presidents represented in campaign textiles, one of the most desired is General Zachary Taylor, who ran and won the Whitehouse as a Whig in 1848 following the conclusion of the Mexican War. No campaign parade flags are known from this year for any of the three primary participants, which included Democrat opponent Lewis Cass, and Free Soil party candidate Martin Van Buren, who obtained ten percent of the popular vote. No bandannas are known from either the Cass or Van Buren campaigns in that year, which means that the only large scale patriotic textiles are those used by Taylor and his supporters.
Ten different styles of kerchiefs are represented for Taylor in “Threads of History”, by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1979), the foremost and most complete text that documents surviving political campaign textiles, but none are seen with any frequency; all are extremely rare and some pictured in the Collins book represent the single surviving example. In this particular style, one other is known, but this is the better of the two in terms of condition and the style is extraordinary in every way, including color, graphics, patriotic representation, and historical reference.
In the center of the center of the textile is a large flag with 36 upside-down stars and 17 stripes, held by a small uniformed soldier. One may note that neither the stars nor stripes represent the accurate count in 1848. These serve only decorative purpose and, though Collins lists the maker as undetermined, the grossly incorrect numbers tend to suggest European manufacture. Under the flag is a folky and youthful portrait of Taylor, in full military regalia. Soldiers nicknamed him “Old Rough-And-Ready”, which is why underneath his portrait is printed: Gen. Z. Taylor; (‘Rough and Ready’); Palo. Alto,
Note the punctuation in the text, which is an often-seen point of interest that can be noted on many 19th century political textiles. The quirky use of commas, quotes, and periods extends throughout the kerchief. Taylor was considered the hero of Palo Alto, the first major conflict of the Mexican War. It was here that 3,400 Mexican troops besieged 2,400 Americans, but were defeated in a risky and unusual maneuver under Taylor’s orders.
In each corner of the bandanna is a different officer who served with Taylor. Under each portrait is the corresponding name and rank. General Winfield Scott is represented in the top left corner, with the words “Lundy’s Lane” underneath in respect to his hard-fought victory at Niagara Falls during the War of 1812, the bloodiest battle ever fought on Canadian soil. Scott is by far the most famous of these men, for reasons that include the fact that he was General-in-Chief under Lincoln at the outbreak of the Civil War. During the Mexican War he left a permanent mark on American history when he led a second army, sent after that of Taylor, and made the first major amphibious landing in the history of the United States. This was in preparation for the Siege of Veracruz, where he led 12,000 with only 80 losses and took the city with little resistance. He then went on to rout Santa Anna at Mexico City, suffering only 400 losses to Santa Anna’s 1,000 and taking 3,000 additional captive. Scott became military governor of Mexico City and this all but ended the war. Scott’s is particularly important on any political textile because he would follow Zachary Taylor on the Whig ticket as their next candidate for president in 1852. Since Scott textiles are virtually unknown, even scarcer than those of Taylor’s, his portrait here on an 1848 campaign kerchief can not be understated.
Scott is followed clockwise by General John Wool, a War of 1812 veteran who was decorated both there and during the Mexican War, where he penetrated Mexico to Saltillo, taking 3,000 men on a march of 900 miles without loss and successfully commencing battle until Taylor arrived in support. Next is Lt. Colonel C.A. May, of Washington, D.C., who garnered great attention from a daring move in which he snuck 100 of his men around the sleeping Mexican Army, observed them, and came back again within one-half mile of their position, at which time they engaged and chased off 100 lancers. He was also revered for gallantry in battle. In the bottom left corner is General Patterson of Ireland and Pennsylvania, a War of 1812 veteran who led Taylor’s lines and orchestrated significant Naval activity on the Rio Grande. Among his more notable achievements was the Battle of Tampico, where he led 9,000 men to victory. During much of his service he was wounded and had to hobble around on crutches throughout Mexico. At times was too weak to ride his horse, but he seemed to appear everywhere despite his injuries, was one of Taylor’s most trusted men, and stayed in Mexico until his condition was such that he had no more choice in the matter.
The wonderfully detailed portraits of these men are complimented by several bold design features, executed with the same care and precision. Among these are the fanciful oval medallions, framed by unusually striking wreaths of oak leaf and acorn, and the elaborate double border, characterized by paisleys and abstract floral designs. Last but certainly not least is the vibrant combination of colors, which includes sepia brown, oxblood red, and a rich, royal blue. Together these elements result in one of the most beautiful and interesting kerchiefs ever created for any political candidate in any period.
The other known example of this particular kerchief is represented in Threads of History as item 205 on page 126. Unlike the example in question, pictured bandanna is glued down around the perimeter with bookbinders tape to some manner of backing. Based on other kerchiefs owned by the collector who pursued this method of mounting, it is probably soiled underneath.
Brief history of Zachary Taylor:
Like James Polk, who was leaving the Presidency, Taylor was also a Southerner who was born in a log cabin. Polk was one of ten children and Taylor one of nine. His family lived in Montebello, Virginia, near present day Barboursville. But unlike Polk, Taylor had no political experience before the Whig Party asked him to run for president. He was instead career military man with 40 years in service. So when he won the election, he became the only other man after George Washington that had thus far gained the Whitehouse without having held a prior office.
Taylor was a slaveholder, but opposed the spread of slavery to the many new territories acquired during Polk’s presidency. He began the Compromise of 1850, which contained a balanced series of five bills each for slave-holding and non-slave states, but he died before it was passed, just sixteen months into his term. Taylor’s death is not well understood, but is thought to have possibly been caused by heat stroke and/or gastroenteritis, which set in after eating a snack of cherries and milk at a 4th of July celebration, at which he was too heavily dressed. Assassination was suspected but never proven. He was buried in Louisville Kentucky in what is now known as the Zachary Taylor Cemetery. He was succeeded by Vice President Millard Fillmore.
Election Results: Zachary Taylor, Louisiana (Whig) - 47.3% PV, 163 EV
Lewis Cass, Michigan (D) - 42.5% PV, 127 EV
Martin Van Buren, New York (Free Soil) - 10.1% PV, 0 EV
Mounting: The kerchief has been hand-sewn to a background of 100% hemp fabric. It was then placed in a black painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The front is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: There is some foxing and staining, particularly within the flag, but the overall condition is exceptional for the period.
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