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    John C. Breckinridge: Monumentally Important 1860 Portrait Campaign Flag Banner. Campaign banners in the style of American flags made their first appearance with the 1840 candidacy of William Henry Harrison, and were made in a variety of sizes and styles for most presidential tickets up through the late 1800s. However, despite their apparent wide usage, a surprisingly small number have survived. Rarity and dynamic visual appeal have raised this category to the highest echelon of political campaign collectibles. Particularly prized are flags of 1860 and 1864, endorsing Abraham Lincoln and his various opponents. In 1860 the Democratic Party fragmented, and there were a total of four major presidential candidates: Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and Breckinridge, Buchanan's vice president during the previous term and the candidate of what was left of the historic Democratic Party. In his landmark reference work Threads of History, Herbert Collins lists and pictures a number of flag banners for the candidates of 1860. He illustrates six different varieties of Lincoln portrait flags, three for Stephen Douglas, and a single style for Bell. Conspicuously absent, however, are flags picturing candidate Breckinridge. Indeed, Collins lists only a single variety of Breckinridge & Lane name flag. The plate example resides in an institutional collection, and we are not aware of any example in private hands. Accordingly, the discovery of the present Breckinridge portrait flag beneath the floorboards of an old Philadelphia row house is an earthshaking event for political hobbyists. A handful of intrepid collectors of these rare political flags seek to obtain representative examples for all candidates for whom these flags were issued. It has long been presumed that, for all practical purposes, a Breckinridge flag was impossible to obtain, even though the existence of a flag with this design would seem logical, as the manufacturer did produce flags in this style for the other three 1860 candidates. Now, what may well be literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself!

    Overall display condition is excellent. The colors are good, and the only discoloration is the slightest hint of water staining, noticeable only if one makes a point of looking for it. There is a minor 4" horizontal tear, running parallel to the top edge about ½" into the blue field at the top left; however, there is no material missing. A couple of very small separations and holes do not detract, but are noted for accuracy. All in all, the flag is in distinctly superior condition for that era. Large 27" x 16.75" size, with terrific display presence. This lot requires 3rd party shipping.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2009
    17th-18th Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 9,189

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    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
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