Purchase Story

World-Record Banner Sets the Tone at Americana and Political Sale

Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas

Photos courtesy Heritage Auctions

The interest in politics and the political process is at an all-time high, undoubtedly fueled by the most recent United States presidential election and subsequent discourse concerning the new leaders.

But then again, Monday-morning armchair quarterbacking has been going on for decades, even centuries, where politics are concerned. The mystique of holding these powerful offices and of what it takes to be elected continues to draw the curious to the smallest of details. Like today’s “talked-about Tweets” used to gain political attention, large-size fabric banners and flags were once used to gain similar attention. Today news seems to be hastily blogged online, but news once was printed hastily on broadsides that were nailed to a prominent wall in the town square. Antique and vintage political memorabilia continues to intrigue, and the best stuff continues to demand top dollar at auction.

Heritage Auctions knows this firsthand as it unwaveringly puts together wonderful American political auctions. Case in point is the Americana and political online auction that opened the last week of April and closed on May 13. Adding even more interest to this event was a separate catalog titled Washington and the Founding Fathers.

Heritage did something similar during its September 2016 Lincoln and His Times auction, where more than campaign material was offered. Americana auctions director Tom Slater explained about the May event: “The eclectic mix of items included important offerings from categories such as period display pieces, autographic material, paper ephemera, fine art, and more. Our goal was to present an auction containing items that appeal to a diverse range of specialized collectors, as well as to those who simply love objects which evoke the earliest days of American history.”

And while this idea again proved very successful, the political campaign items continue to garner the highest bids. The top lot of the day and another extremely rare piece were both purchased by the same collector/dealer who specializes in early American flags, Jeff R. Bridgman of York County, Pennsylvania.

The top lot of this Heritage auction was this James Buchanan 1856 campaign flag made in the style of an American flag. It is in a great size (17½" x 22½" overall) with great color and a bold portrait of Buchanan, all of which helped this flag sell for $275,000 (est. $80,000/120,000).

Bridgman paid $275,000 (est. $80,000/120,000) for the best 1856 James Buchanan portrait campaign flag known to exist. The price set a new record for a political flag at auction. (Prices include buyer’s premium.) “The previous record of $95,600 was set in November of 2009 for an 1860 John Breckinridge portrait flag purchased by a private collector,” Bridgman stated. “Before that, the record was $83,600, set in February of 2007 for a very large Lincoln portrait flag, and I was also the buyer.”

The catalog listing says of this Buchanan item: “Among the various categories of political collectables, none is more highly prized than the colorful campaign banners in the style of American flags. With the exception of Zachary Taylor, such flag banners were produced for every winning presidential candidate from William Henry Harrison in 1840 up through, at least, Woodrow Wilson.”

So what set this Buchanan flag apart from others? Until this May auction there was only one other known example. It is pictured in Threads of History (1979) by Herbert Ridgway Collins and housed in a prominent Ohio collection. The record-setting version had some spectacular attributes.

For example, this flag was never trimmed down from the white border as made, so its true overall dimensions were 22½" x 17½". Yes, it had some minor light aging and a stain mark above the word “John,” but the red and blue colors were vivid despite its age. Add in the large, bold portrait of Buchanan, and naturally an advanced collector like Bridgman was bidding to win.

The other flag purchased by Bridgman appears to have been quite a buy. Offered during the Washington and the Founding Fathers portion of the sale was a silk banner from the October 1789 parade welcoming the recently installed President Washington to Boston.

Heritage included a lengthy, detailed description of how, during his first year as president, Washington traveled extensively in an effort to promote his presidency and the new Federal government. It details the procession of different trades where this banner made its first appearance during his Boston stop.

Wearing “No. 16,” indicating its order in the procession, the banner was flown to represent the plumbers and glaziers and included painted images symbolic of those trades. According to Heritage, “It is one of only four of these banners known to exist today, the others representing the cordwainers, mast-makers, and tailors. Only this example mentions Washington by name.”

Bridgman purchased this 18th-century flag for $62,500 (est. $80,000/120,000). He stated that it was a great buy. “I believe there may have been some skepticism concerning the flag’s authenticity, which resulted in such a low number,” Bridgman explained. “I flew to Dallas to examine the flag and found it to be legitimate. There was some history with it, handed down through the Sons of the Revolution, who consigned it, but the original source of the information was unconfirmed. During my research, I found two period 1789 broadsides describing the flag exactly. It was actually one of 46 flags used in a procession of tradesmen. Not only was the construction of the flags listed, and their size and color, but the exact flag was listed in its proper sequence as ‘Glaziers & Plumbers, No. 16.’ Rarity here was off the charts. I have never owned an eighteenth-century flag; almost nothing exists of that period, inside or outside of institutions, and this actually had Washington’s name on it. Amazing.”

This banner is thought to be the only surviving silk banner from the October 1789 parade welcoming the recently installed President George Washington to Boston that honors Washington by name. It sold for $62,500 (est. $80,000/120,000). The buyer of this banner, collector/dealer Jeff R. Bridgman of York County, Pennsylvania, who specializes in early American flags, also bought the top lot of the day, the James Buchanan flag. As a side note, Bridgman had sold both flags less than three weeks after the auction.

And amazing is a great term for this Heritage event. Another Washington-related item that sold strong was a leopard-skin saddle pad owned and used by both George Washington and British General Edward Braddock. Again Heritage Auctions’ catalog goes into great detail concerning the history of this item. Before Braddock’s death, he gifted his surviving war horse to Washington, as well as the service of his cook, Bishop, his sash, this leopard-skin saddle pad, and one or both of his pistols. The saddle pad was once part of the American Heritage Library and Museum of the Sons of the Revolution, Glendale, California. The pad was presented at auction just as it had been displayed at this facility. The 36" x 20" pad with knotted fringe sold for $150,000 (est. $16,000/24,000).

Owned by both General Edward Braddock and later George Washington, this leopard-skin saddle pad sold for $150,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). The extensive catalog listing presented by Heritage Auctions concerning this saddle pad is a very interesting read. You can find it by searching for “leopard-skin saddle pad” at (www.historical.ha.com), and it will appear as a featured past sale.

Numerous lots of historical documents brought top dollar. A broadside reporting on the event that ignited the American Revolution was understandably desirable, which was reflected in its selling price of $162,500 (est. $16,000/24,000). The document was titled “Important Advices!” It was printed at 1 a.m. on Monday, April 24, 1775, and contained two reports dated the 23rd of April. For reference, the “shot heard round the world” was fired on April 19, 1775.

This 1775 broadside is titled “Important Advices!” It was printed at 1 a.m. on Monday, April 24, and reports on some events that ignited the American Revolution. Despite its age, the document has only some edge roughness and scattered watermarks. It sold for $162,500 (est. $16,000/24,000). To put this into perspective, the “shot heard round the world” happened on April 19, 1775. A column of 700 British troops had left their safe holding in Boston to march to Concord to look for Massachusetts militia military supplies. Having been warned of this, the Americans had moved the supplies, and when the British arrived, the Minutemen of the militia fired upon them and continued to do so even as the British gathered reinforcements in Lexington while they withdrew. The Americans then followed and attacked the troops on their way back to Boston. The Revolutionary War had begun. This broadside reports of these occurrences.

Heritage Auctions’ catalog explains in detail: “The broadside presents two reports. The first is from Samuel Parsons, sent to the Committee of New London and Lyme (Connecticut). ‘The Accounts I have received from the Army are confused,’ he writes. ‘Thus much, however, may be depended upon, That the British Forces are retreated to Boston;… slain British troops far exceeded that of the Provincials; The Proportion, as near as I can collect, is about Five or Six to One.’ He goes on to assert that ‘The Ravages and barbarous Cruelty of our Enemies is almost unparalleled among the Savage Nations...Old Men, Women and Children have not escaped their brutal Rage, but in some instances have been cut in Pieces in a most inhuman Manner.’ Parsons closes with the declaration that ‘More Men will doubtless be wanted; I therefore wish them to be detached and in Readiness as soon as possible, but not to march until further orders.’

“The second dispatch comes from Israel Putnam, who would go on to become a prominent General in the Continental Army. He urges that ‘...Men must come down to this Place, for we know not when we shall be attacked in this confused State. The Troops in Boston are in Motion, and preparing to make an attack some where; but we have no news from Boston unless by some few of the Inhabitants, that run the Risk of their Lives by getting out of the Town by Stealth, for Boston is Shut up! --- There is no coming in or going out any other Way! --- The People of the Town are all Prisoners, and what their Fate will be GOD only knows; for the Troops have behaved in a cruel and barbarous Manner; going into Houses and killing sick People, that were not able to go one Step, putting the Muzzle of the Gun into their Mouths and blowing their Heads in Pieces. Some Children had their Brains beat out! ---Several Houses and Barns Burned! --- and, for Miles together, not a House nor Shop but had their Windows broke, and hundreds of Shot in them! --- There were about 40 of our People killed; but rather more of the Troops, and 70 or 80 of the Latter are taken Prisoners. --- Enough of that, for this confused State! --- Pray let Men be properly inlisted [sic] and officered; let there be Teams to bring Provision, and a farther Supply sent immediately after them. Take Care they be sent in good Order. - ISRAEL PUTNAM.’”

Another document of importance was a missive written by President Thomas Jefferson to Georgia’s Governor John Milledge concerning the removal of the Cherokees from Georgia because of the Louisiana Purchase. It sold for $93,750 (est. $120,000/180,000). Besides detailing the historic plan for relocating the Cherokees, the document was done entirely in Jefferson’s hand.

Selling for $93,750 (est. $120,000/180,000) was this letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to Georgia Governor John Milledge concerning the removal of the Cherokees from Georgia as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. Written on November 22, 1803, the letter is entirely in Jefferson’s hand and states in part: “While we were negotiating with the Creeks for the extension of your Ockmulgee boundary, we thought it unadvisable to press any other topic which would be disagreeable to them. As soon as the unfavorable turn which that negotiation took was known, I desired the Secretary at War to take the proper measures for effecting the subject of your letter of Aug. 5. The Cherokees have at length ceded to us the road from Knoxville to the Savanna, under some cautions & restrictions which it is believed they will soon retire from in practice. We have now to press on the Creeks a direct road from this place to New Orleans, passing always below the mountains.”

By August Young (1837-1913), this 13" x 17" oil on canvas mounted on board of George Washington meeting with members of his staff at the Fraunces Tavern sold for $35,000 (est. $2400/3600). Young, active in Germany and the United States, specialized in genre and portrait paintings. In this image Washington is shown administering an oath to members of his staff. Heritage notes that the “Fraunces Tavern is the site where Washington delivered his farewell address to his officers at the close of the Revolutionary War, prior to retiring to Mt. Vernon.”

The variety of items offered by Heritage at this auction made for one interesting event. An oil on canvas scene depicting George Washington administering an oath to members of his staff at the Fraunces Tavern did well, selling for $35,000 (est. $2400/3600). Signed “Aug. Young 1891,” for August Young (1837-1913), the image was 17" x 13" and mounted to a board and then framed to an overall size of 23½" x 19½".

A Statue of Liberty maquette (or working model) done in terra cotta that was thought to date between 1875 and 1882 sold for $45,000 (est. $6000/8000). The model, which stood 50" tall, had one corner of its base impressed with the seal of the “Union Franco Americaine” and included the monogram of the organization, while the other side was incised “Modele du Comité No. 37 Bartholdi.” The sculptor was Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904).

This 50" tall metal and terra-cotta working model of the Statue of Liberty did very well, selling for $45,000 (est. $6000/8000). Originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” it dates between 1875 and 1882 and was sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904). The base of the model is a foot square. The statue is hollow and has metal spikes embedded in the torch to simulate rays of light.

A silver tablespoon made between 1790 and 1800 by silversmith and American patriot Paul Revere sold for $15,000 (est. $20,000/22,000). Having a 3" long oval bowl, the spoon was marked “Revere” on the back and contained just over two ounces of silver. “DMS” was engraved in foliate script initials on the downturned rounded-end handle. The initials were for a well-known Massachusetts couple, Daniel Sargent (1731-1806) and Mary Turner Sargent (1743-1813). According to Heritage, Mary “was born in a house built by her grandfather that later was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel House of the Seven Gables. She was also the subject of a 1763 painting by John Singleton Copley, who is perhaps best known for his later portrait of Paul Revere.”

This sale realized $1.9 million. Heritage holds political Americana events twice a year. The next edition will take place in November.

For more information, contact Tom Slater at Heritage Auctions at 1-800-872-6467 or go to the website (www.historical.ha.com).

Hand colored in pastels and measuring 21" x 30", this Battle of Yorktown map titled “Carte de la Partie de la Virginie ou L’Armée Combinée de France & Des états-Unis de L’Amérique a fait prisonniere l’armée Anglaise commandée par Lord Cornwallis le 19 Octbre. 1781” sold for $42,500 (est. $2400/3600). It was published in Paris in 1782 by Esnauts & Rapilly. The Heritage catalog entry states: “It shows the battle placements around Yorktown, as well as the fleet of Admiral de Grasse, which has prevented the arrival of English reinforcements and forced their ships to retreat. The H.M.S. Terrible is shown in flames. Some interesting place names include the ‘Potowmarck’ and ‘Raphannok’ rivers. Opposing the British are the troops of Washington, La Fayette, Rochambeau, and the Marquis de St. Simon.”

This printing of the Declaration of Independence by Peter Force sold for $27,500 (est. $12,000/18,000). The rice paper page measures 38½" x 35". As framed under glass, the visible document is 27½" x 24½". This document was originally folded and included in volume I of Peter Force’s 1837-53 series of books “American Archives.” Interestingly, this example shows no apparent fold lines. Heritage notes that although copies of the Force Declaration are rare, Heritage has sold 14 other copies between 2006 and 2016 for prices between $13,500 and $38,837.50, and that seven examples have sold for $20,000 or more.

The Heritage Auctions’ catalog listing describes this George Washington inaugural brass clothing button, dated 1789, as not only “the finest example of this popular variety we have encountered but also “the finest GW button of ANY variety we’ve ever seen!” Its reflective surfaces are described as “pristine” with a “uniformly strong strike.” Retaining its original shank, this beauty of a button did not disappoint when it sold for $16,250 (est. $5600/8400).

Attributed to William Dunlap (1766-1839), this dated 1805 oil on canvas portrait of John Adams sold for $35,000 (est. $8000/12,000). The image portrays a mature Adams or what he probably looked like while he was president from 1797 to 1801.

Decorated with platinum, gold, diamonds, rubies, and pearls, this black velvet kofia that belonged to Elijah Muhammad sold for $32,500 (est. $16,000/24,000). “Our King, Elijah Muhammad, Messenger of Allah” is embroidered in red thread on the inside. It also has a “Temple 2” label. According to Heritage Auctions’ extensive catalog listing for this item, “Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), one of the most influential black leaders of the twentieth century, was born in the South in 1897 and came North with his young wife and children as part of the great migration after the crash of 1929. In Detroit, he heard Master W. Fard Muhammad speak at the Temple of Islam in 1931, and immediately converted. Fard Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, gave Elijah his new name and made him a minister, and he became an integral part of the Temple. By 1934, Elijah Muhammad had inherited the leadership of the Nation and relocated the center from Detroit to Chicago, where he established Temple No. 2. Elijah Muhammad continued to lead the Nation of Islam for the next 40 years during which time he expanded the membership, established many businesses and mentored many notable members including Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.” The kofia was part of Elijah Muhammad’s persona. He wore this particular kofia at Savior’s Day in both 1973 and 1974 and just before his death in 1975.

This is a matched pair of jugate buttons for Cox-Roosevelt and Harding-Coolidge. They are 5/8" diameter and sold for $35,000 (est. $16,000/24,000). According to Heritage, there are possibly as many as four or five other Cox-Roosevelt buttons known in this size, but “this is the only Harding-Coolidge of which we are aware, making this what could well be the only attainable matched pair.”

This 9" x 11 3/8" document is dated January 1, 1776, and was signed by John Hancock when he was president of the Continental Congress. It is the appointment of Benjamin Haskell, a Bunker Hill hero, as an ensign in the Continental Army. It sold for $22,500 (est. $4800/7200). The document appoints Haskell to the company of Captain Ebenezer Brewster in the 10th Regiment of Foot commanded by Colonel Samuel H. Parsons. The Heritage catalog noted that “John Hancock’s iconic autograph is among the most sought after of any historical figure. Particularly desirable is a Revolutionary War document like this one signed by him as President of the Continental Congress.”

This letter handwritten by George Washington sold for $22,500 (est. $5600/8400). Several aspects make this missive special. It was written by Washington while at his Mount Vernon home. It is dated September 31, 1799, which would have been less than three months before he died. It is signed “Genl. Washington,” and in it he discusses with a “Mr. Digger” the best time to harvest and the exchange of 20 bushels of early white wheat.

Originally published in the August 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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