JEFF R. BRIDGMAN ANTIQUES, INC
In celebration of Independence Day, T&C assembled a selection of antique American flags and textiles currently available through Jeff R. Bridgman, the country’s foremost dealer.
While there are variations on the Stars and Stripes, which changed in number throughout the 19th Century as new states joined the union, the mix also includes a rare colorful militia flag designed by Tiffany & Co. valued at $350,000, and the Declaration of Independence woven into a kerchief, circa 1826. And while there is no telling what today’s Trump and Clinton campaign memorabilia may one day be worth, an 1864 Abraham Lincoln-Andrew Johnson campaign flag is priced at $125,000.
Below, Bridgman offers a look at his rarest piece along with his own commentary on them.
13-Star Flag, 1861-65
This is an extremely rare, American national flag with 13 stars arranged in a six-pointed Great Star (a star made out of stars). It’s one of a tiny handful of pieced-and-sewn examples with this extraordinarily rare star design made during the Civil War era. While the reason behind the selection of this design is not known, this is a homemade flag and one of just a few known for its stars configured in this particular fashion. One may note that the arrangement mimics the grouping of 13 stars found on the Great Seal of the United States, which appears in the cloud-like shape above the American eagle. It also happens to be the most logical way to arrange 13 stars in a star-shaped pattern.
A 13-Star Flag Made Specifically for Massachusetts, 1840-1860
An early 13-star ship’s flag with an exceptional, lopsided oval variation of the 3rd Maryland pattern, this entirely hand-sewn example once belonged to the Linsley & Gay families of Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was made sometime in the period between 1840 and 1860. The stars, which point in various directions on their vertical axis, are arranged in a flattened oval wreath, with a single, upside-down star in the center. This basic configuration is commonly referred to as the “3rd Maryland” pattern and is very desirable due to both its attractiveness and the scarcity of its use. A similar flag, carried by the Maryland and District of Columbia Battalion of Volunteers during the Mexican War, resides in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History & Technology.
Declaration of Independence on Cloth, 1821
This 1821 printing of the Declaration of Independence on cloth was produced and distributed by Robert & Collin Gillespie. Printed in mulberry ink on cotton, this kerchief-style broadside is one of the earliest known renditions of the Declaration of Independence rendered on cloth. The large size of this particular style of kerchief and its exceptional graphic qualities lend significant measure to its visual impact. When combined with such an early date, as well as the distinction of having been one of the earliest printings of our nation’s most important document, the result is an extraordinary standout among America’s first known political textiles.
Tiffany-Made Presentation Battle Flag of the 6th Troop New York German Hussars, 1861
Many people don’t know that Tiffany & Company opened its doors in 1837 as suppliers of stationery and fancy goods. During the American Civil War, the very best battle flags were produced by Tiffany using the most exceptional embroidery skill and fabrics available in America. This particular example, made for a New York militia unit, is two-sided, with intricate detail on each panel (the center detail of one side is pictured here). On the obverse is a spread-wing eagle, flags, drums, and the instruments of war. On the reverse is an illustration of an officer in French style Hussars garb, with a raised sword, accompanied by seven smaller mounted soldiers and framed by patriotically festooned vertical cannons. This flag is among the most extraordinary of its kind that exists in private hands.
General Philip Henry Sheridan’s Headquarters Flag, 1862
This Civil War flag has a great story. It was discovered in upstate New York, and Sheridan was from NY, he was a West-Pointer. Made of merino wool and entirely hand-sewn, this was Sheridan’s colors from the Spring/Summer of 1862, when he led the 2nd Michigan Cavalry with great effect and rose from Captain to Major General in just six months. The crossed sabers are the traditional emblem of the United States Cavalry. The “2” represents the 2nd Brigade and the single star represents Sheridan’s status as a “one star” general. The flag is quite beautiful. The exact format is unique, so far as I am aware, which isn’t unusual for a Civil War period flag of a high-ranking officer.
30-star Flag for Wisconsin, 1848-50
The 30th state, Wisconsin, joined the Union on May 29th, 1848, and the 30-star flag was the official flag until July 3rd, 1851. It’s a U.S. Navy Jack with 30 stars, an entirely hand-sewn, pre-Civil War example with great color and bold visual qualities. Like the British Royal Navy, American vessels flew three flags. When at anchor or moored, the Jack is flown at the bow (front), the national flag or “ensign” is flown at the stern (back), and the commission pennant is flown from the main mast. Made sometime between 1848 and 1850, this terrific early example has a complement of 30 stars, arranged in a fairly rectilinear pattern, comprised of five rows with six stars each.
Declaration of Independence Kerchief, 1826
This rare, large-scale kerchief with an image of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence was made for the 1826 U.S. Semicentennial. Printed on cotton, this extraordinarily detailed kerchief pays respect to the Declaration of Independence through its depiction of the famous oil on canvas painting by John Trumbull, George Washington’s aide-de-camp and an accomplished painter of historical images. Surviving examples of these kerchiefs are extremely rare.
Abraham Lincoln Kerchief, 1861-62
Period kerchiefs that feature an image of Abraham Lincoln are so few in number that you can count them on two hands. As of 2015, only seven examples are thought to exist in the collecting community, six of which are in private hands. The reproduction of actual photographs is extraordinarily unusual on early kerchiefs—this one includes Cartes de Visite photo images of the president and four of his generals. Of much greater importance to any collector of presidential material are two of the remaining photos that flank Lincoln in the upper left and right-hand corners. One is General John Fremont, who became the first man to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1856 and lost to John Buchanan, just after the birth of the Republican Party (Lincoln was the party’s second nominee, in 1860). The other is General George McClellan, who commanded the Army under Lincoln, then fell out of favor and was removed from his post. McClellan obtained the 1864 Democrat nomination and subsequently ran against Lincoln in 1864.
Civil War Regimental Flag, 1861-65
The patriotic text on this flag reads, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” and it’s hand-gilded and painted on cornflower blue silk. During the Civil War, U.S. Army regulations set forth that an infantry unit would carry two flags. These included a national colors flag, meaning the Stars & Stripes, and one of regimental colors, also referred to as a federal standard. Private groups or individuals that raised units often had their own flags made and presented them in formal ceremonies. This flag is the regimental battle flag of a Civil War volunteer unit. This is their own, personalized version of the federal standard and would have been carried alongside their Stars & Stripes. Several things are especially desirable and interesting about the central device, a bald eagle perched on a horizontal shield. This aggressive wartime stance can be seen on numerous patriotic objects from the 1860s and 70s. The pose is appealing both because it’s different from the norm throughout American history and because it is visually pleasing.
Andrew Johnson Broadside, 1865
President Andrew Johnson sits at the center of broadside surrounded by a host of civil war heroes. In the field of American political collectibles, there is very little that features Andrew Johnson as a sitting president. Johnson ascended to our nation’s highest office following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Though he presided over the country through Reconstruction of the South, he did not seek reelection and therefore never ran for the presidency, only the vice-presidency under Lincoln. This means that there were no “Andrew Johnson for President” flags, banners, kerchiefs, broadsides, or other graphic campaign objects. Very few items of this sort were produced for presidents of the United States during the 19th century while they were in office, unless they were campaigning, and that’s why this very rare Andrew Johnson broadside is so important. In addition to its rarity, the broadside is strikingly bold, colorful, and large in scale. The portraits are attractive, and the collection of important Civil War personalities around the president offer a keen snapshot of the heroes of the North. An illustration of five men raising an elongated American flag in celebration of victory includes a soldier, a sailor, a politician, a farmer, and a slave.
Lincoln and Johnson Campaign Flag, 1864
Made for the 1864 presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew, this flag’s 35 stars are arranged in an interesting “notched” pattern, leaving one space open for the addition of another Western Territory. This example is very important because it’s the second largest known political parade flag across all elections for which they were made, and it survives as the only known flag of its style.
Teddy Roosevelt Textile, 1906
Created in 1906 to celebrate Teddy Roosevelt’s receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace, this boldly graphic textile honors that treaty that President Roosevelt brokered between Japan and Russia to end the Russo-Japanese War.
This brilliant Kelly green textile glorifies Roosevelt’s role, as well as his history with the Rough Riders, who are depicted along the top edge. They act as a crest for the heart-shaped medallion that holds a beautiful color image of the president, as nice as any that exist in American political cloth.
The textile is marked “Copyright 1906 by Campbell, Metzger, and Jacobsen” in the bottom left corner. This is one of the rarest and most desired Roosevelt items, with outstanding color, in a remarkable state of preservation.
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