DescriptionGeorge Washington: A Monumental Silk Banner from the October 1789 Parade Welcoming the Recently-installed President to Boston. The only surviving banner from the time of his Presidency of which we are aware honoring the Father of his Country by name.
In the first year of his Presidency, Washington traveled extensively, visiting towns and cities and making public appearances which bolstered his popularity as well as inspiring support for the still-fledgling Federal Government. On October 15th Washington left New York City, then still the seat of the government, to tour Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. According to one contemporary account:
"As soon as a confirmation of The President's intention to visit Boston was received, a Committee was immediately appointed to draft and Address to be presented to him, in behalf of the town, by the Selectmen. The necessary arrangements having been planned and executed by a Committee appointed for that purpose, and information having been received that The President would enter the town on Saturday, at noon, at ten o'clock the inhabitants assembled and formed their PROCESSION in the Mall-from whence, preceded by the Band of his Most Christian Majesty's squadron-they proceeded to the Fortification-where his Excellency the governour had previously ordered the several military corps of this metropolis to parade.
"On the arrival of the head of the Procession at the entrance of the town-the whole were ordered to halt to open ranks, and face inwards-which being done, an avenue was formed, which reached from the neck to the Statehouse, for the President, etc. to pass through. At one o'clock, The President's approach was announced by federal discharges from Capt. Warner's artillery at Roxbury-from the Dorchester artillery posted on the celebrated heights of that town-from Capt. Johnson's artillery at the entrance of the town-and from Castle William; by a royal salute from the ships of his Most Christian Majesty's squadron, and by the ringing of all the bells.
"After the Selectmen had waited on The President-expressed to him the pleasure the citizens enjoyed on his arrival-and gave a hearty welcome, THE PROCESSION came into town in the following order..."
[A long list of participants followed, culminating with the part pertaining to this banner.]
"Then followed the Artizans, Tradesmen and Manufacturers, alphabetically arranged. Every Profession was distinguished by a white silk flag, of a yard square, on a staff seven feet long, with some emblematical device painted thereon. They were numbered from 1 to 50 and being handsomely done, made an agreeable appearance."
Washington wrote of the even in his diary: "We passed through the Citizens classed in their different professions and under their own banners, till we came to the State House."
The banner presented here was "No. 16" in the order of the procession, and represented the plumbers and glaziers, and is painted with images symbolic of those trades. 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.
The employment of the phrase "Washington's Policy" may have had a particular significance. As the paper electoral ticket in the following lot suggests, this may have been a catch-phrase used to represent Washington's role as unifier as the country sought stability and prosperity under the new Federal Government-developments strongly supported by the tradesmen and manufacturers represented in the Boston parade. While political campaign banners and posters per se were not in use in the time of Washington, this banner can quite legitimately be considered a "political" item of extreme interest and importance to collectors of that genre.
The history of the "Washington's Policy" banner is well known. It descended through the family from Freeman Pulsifer, a Bunker Hill veteran who carried it in the Boston parade. For a time it reportedly hung in the State House before being donated to the Society of the Sons of the Revolution, an organization founded in 1876, to serve descendants of veterans of the American Revolution, in 1922. Since then it has been on proud display in the Society's Glendale, California library until the trustees made the decision to deaccession it at auction.
Measuring 38" x 32.5", the banner has an embroidered and elaborate fringe on three sides. The fourth side is unfinished where it would have been affixed to the pole on which it was carried in the parade. The silk fabric itself is in remarkable condition, with only a few very minor holes and areas of deterioration at the corners where the fringe joins the cloth. The painted devices are in an equally fine state of preservation, exhibiting only very light wear. Only the several background devices, done in gold, show a little more fading and wear. The banner presents beautifully under glass in a simple gold-leafed wood frame, as it has been displayed for decades.
Heritage is proud to have presented over the years many significant historical artifacts, but none more important than the "Washington's Policy" banner. It's documented use during George Washington's historic Boston visit, combined with marvelous display presence, make the banner a true national treasure, worthy of the finest private or institutional collection.
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