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    Andrew Johnson: A Unique and Highly Important Banner from the Turbulent Era of Reconstruction Politics, with Quote from Abraham Lincoln. In as much as Johnson never ran for president in his own right, virtually nothing has survived in the way of graphic display items supporting him. We have never seen another banner promoting our 17th president.

    Johnson was selected as Lincoln's running mate in 1864 as a gesture of conciliation. He had served as Tennessee's governor and U.S. Senator, and was the only southern senator to remain loyal to the Union when the War broke out. However, Johnson lacked what in a medical doctor might be termed a "good bedside manner," and when he unexpectedly ascended to the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination faced tremendous political challenges. One of his first acts as president was the issuing of executive orders authorizing the southern states to reconstitute their governments, including the democratic election of representatives to the federal legislature. The states promptly elected officials who were in many cases old supporters of the Confederacy and the U.S. Congress, dominated by Radical Republicans bent on punishing the South, refused to seat their representatives. For the remainder of his presidency Johnson would be at war with congressional Republicans, who ultimately brought him up on impeachment charges. He refused to sign both the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment, further deepening the divide.

    In terms of electoral politics, Johnson sought to sustain the fragile Union coalition which had re-elected Lincoln in 1864. On Washington's birthday, 1866, he delivered a major speech to a crowd in the nation's capital, seeking broad support for his policies. The banner offered here almost certainly was made for that event, as it pictures Washington along with the current president. The "Stand Firm" sentiment was drawn from a famous Lincoln quote, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."

    Johnson's attempts to continue the National Union party collapsed as the radicals seized control and restored the old Republican name. It became clear that the congressional elections of 1866 would be the battleground to determine the course of the party and the nation. That summer Johnson called a disastrous National Union convention in Philadelphia, which kicked off the famous "Swing around the circle" tour in which the president gave poorly received speeches in cities such as Indianapolis, Chicago, and St. Louis seeking to rally support. However, his efforts collapsed and he was essentially marginalized for the remainder of his presidency. Normally one might expect to see campaign items supporting an incumbent president for another term, but by 1868 Johnson was in disgrace and not a viable presidential candidate.

    This remarkable double-sided cotton banner, measuring 40 1/2" wide X 50" long, is likely the only surviving such item from the political struggles in the aftermath of the Civil War. Overall condition is excellent, with no damage and only moderate aging. As an historical artifact, it is of paramount importance for an institutional collection. For the collector of presidential memorabilia, it presents what is likely the only opportunity to obtain a substantial display textile for our 17th president. As such, it is unquestionably one of the most important political banners it has ever been Heritage's privilege to present. Small wonder no less an authority than Herbert Collins selected it to appear on the cover of his definitive reference work Threads of History. Formerly in the legendary collection of Kenton Broyles, it was purchased by the present consignor in the early 1990s for a sum which was then comparable to the going price for a Lincoln portrait flag. Today, Lincoln flags have sold up to and in excess of $200,000. A James K. Polk political banner was sold by Heritage for a hammer price of $185,000, and we recently sold a large Lincoln-Johnson jugate campaign broadside for a hammer price of $250,000. Surely this unique Andrew Johnson banner belongs in that company.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2021
    25th-26th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,893

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Sep 25, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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    I don’t often do testimonials but in this case I felt truly obligated to thank Heritage Auctions for the extremely professional job your organization did for me.
    Charlie K.,
    Pittsburgh, PA
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