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    Description

    George Washington: 1789 Inauguration Parade Sash. This silk sash, approximately 10" x 32", is comprised of three fragments attached to a modern support fabric, in a custom frame. The coarsely spun silk, light pink in color, has three design elements painted on. These consist of an American eagle surrounded by thirteen stars (three of which are missing, but can be easily extrapolated based on symmetry of design), a fleur-de-lis, and a shield with floral elements and the monogrammed initials GW.
    Washington Presidential Textiles---Research and background information:
    Most collectors of political Americana are aware of the clothing buttons that were produced to celebrate George Washington's inauguration on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City. Practically everybody assumes that these were the only artifacts produced to mark the auspicious event. As a matter of fact, various textiles were also issued as personal adornments and souvenirs. Unlike "GW" buttons which were composed of brass and copper and thus have survived in modest quantities, textiles were extremely fragile, working against survival. Alphaeus H. Albert, one of the preeminent and early authorities on George Washington inaugural buttons, describes such items using contemporary eye-witness accounts of the inaugural ceremonies in his 1949 work Washington Historical Buttons:
    "An account in the Massachusetts Centinel for 1789, makes mention that, "the women not to be outdone by the men agreed to adopt an article of attire to be worn as a testimonial to the illustrious President. They invented a sash, a broad white ribbon, with 'GW' in gold letters or spangles, encircled by a laurel wreath in front--on one end of the sash to be painted the American eagle, and on the other a Fleur-de-lys." Recounting the results of his research, Albert elaborated:
    "In the late autumn of 1789, the President made a 'good will' tour of the New England States, and this same Massachusetts newspaper carried an advertisement for many days to the effect that: 'A few elegant Washington Sashes and ribbons are taken in. Printed and gilt in the neatest manner.' Another interesting item of note was recorded: 'At the Oratorio on Tuesday, the Marchioness Traversay exhibited on the bandeau of her hat the GW and the Eagle, set in brilliants on a velvet ground.'
    When Washington made a..'good will' tour of the Southern States in 1791, it is recorded in Griswold's Republican Court, under the date May 2, that: 'The Southern women wore sashes with the portraits of Washington, also fillets, and bandeaux of white ribbons, with the inscription, 'Long Live the President.'
    At Perrysburg, Washington was met by a committee from Savannah, and conducted on board a richly decorated boat, in which the party were rowed down river by nine Sea Captains, dressed in light blue silk jackets, black satin breeches, and white silk stockings, and round hats with black ribbons, inscribed with 'Long Live the President' in golden letters."

    Extant examples of Washington Inauguration textiles:
    The New York Historical Society owns a fragment, approximately 4" x 6" and woefully incomplete, of a hand-painted flag carried in the 1789 inaugural procession in New York City. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association owns a pair of engraved satin gloves issued in 1790 to commemorate the first anniversary of Washington's ascendancy into office, incorporating a revised design of the Dated Inaugural Button, Albert WI-1 ("Eagle with date").

    Design elements:
    1. The eagle. This rendition is often referred to as a "chicken" eagle and is dated to the Federal period. It appears on the title pages of almanacs from the 1780s and 90s, as well as Liverpool jugs exported to America. It is most similar to the designs shown on two jugs, identified as "American Eagle" #151 and #153, in Robert H. McCauley's Liverpool Transfer Designs on Anglo-American Pottery. These jugs, each depicting fifteen stars, were produced between 1792 and 1796. Using this method of dating, the thirteen stars on the sash would indicate it was produced prior to the admission of the 14th state, Vermont, on February 18, 1791.
    2. The fleur-de-lis. The fleur-de-lis is a heraldic device of great antiquity, often associated with the rulers of France. It also appeared in the English Royal coat-of-arms until 1801. Considering the crucial role played by France in the American Revolution and the friendship and mutual respect between the two nations, it seems appropriate that this ancient symbol should be linked with America's first President.
    3. The monogram GW. The custom of identifying American presidents by their initials originated with George Washington. The letters "GW" were instantly recognizable to Washington's contemporaries, and appear on inaugural buttons, funeral medals, and in newspapers and pamphlets of the period.

    Scientific testing:
    In order to determine the age of the sash, it was sent to McCrone Associates of Westmont, IL, a well respected laboratory and research facility. McCrone Associates was the company that was entrusted with dating the Shroud of Turin. Diverse tests were conducted on selected samples of paint. Their conclusions are summarized: The sash is made of silk which appears to be hand-woven. The painted decoration is watercolor, manufactured from organic dyes. All pigments, except the red (which would require additional sophisticated tests and more expense), were "adequately" identified. The blue is Prussian Blue, developed in 1704, and popular from the 1730s onward. The yellow is gamboge (derived from a tree resin from Southeast Asia), developed in the early 1600s and used in the United States from the early 1700s onward, becoming quite popular in the mid-18th century. The brown is composed of raw umber. The black is made up of lamp-black, bone-black, and umber. The green is made by mixing Prussian Blue and yellow (gamboge). All these pigments are consistent with a dating of 1789. Due to the margin of error and the age involved, the sash is not a viable candidate for carbon dating.

    The sash was also sent to S. Rabbitt Goody, a textile historian working for Thistle Hill Weavers in Cherry Valley, NY. This concern is often called upon to evaluate antique textiles for museums and collectors. Her conclusions are summarized: "The silk cloth is plain woven with raw silk singles for both the warp and the filling yarns... there appears to be a fair amount of silk gun (sericin) present which would mean that this silk may be called 'ecru' silk or "Souple" silk... This is consistent with 18th century high quality thrown silk. The ends and pick count is variable which is consistent with hand weaving... the three pieces are made from the same yarn and have the same end and pick counts so it is reasonable to state that they are from the same sash. One selvedge present has threads set more densely but no special added selvedge. There are no threads of other fiber included in the selvedge which was often done by French weavers... there were no metallic salts present in the silk which supports a date prior to the use of metallic salts to replace silk gum weight which began after 1870. The deterioration of the original textile is consistent with an 18th century date. There is little breaking or cracking associated with late 19th century and early 20th century silk which is due to the use of metallic salts. The fabric is consistent with 18th century silk in every detail. There is no reason to believe that this is a forgery or a sash made to look or replicate an earlier piece."




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    ‡ The owner placed a late bid on this unreserved lot and repurchased it, subject to applicable commission.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2011
    21st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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