DescriptionHenry Clay and James K. Polk: A Delightful and Highly Important Folk Art Banner from the 1844 Campaign. The optimistic artist depicts Clay giving Polk a sound drubbing, but Polk would prevail at the ballot box. Above the candidates an eagle flies, bearing a streamer reading, "Protective Tariff," one of the signal issues addressed by Clay's Whig candidacy. The annexation of Texas was a major plank in Polk's platform, and it may be that the presence of a small ball labeled "Texas" was intended to imply the diminished importance of that issue. Underneath is a clever verse:
"Thus Polk the scoundrel tries
Our tariff low to lay
While to its rescue flies
The gallant Henry Clay."
The banner is handpainted on muslin, mounted on linen, and is in excellent condition, displaying only light general indications of aging. Dimensions are 35" x 42.5".
Published by Herbert Collins in Threads of History (no. 162, p. 111), this banner was for years in the legendary "first collection" of Donald Ackerman. When that collection was broken up by Ackerman in the early 1980s, it was purchased by Merrill Berman, who considered it one of his most significant political display items. Historical content, folk art charm, and exceptional condition for the type and era combine to make this one of the finest existing 19th century political banners, worthy of the most advanced institutional or private collection. One need only browse through the pages of Threads of History, which cataloged many of the best political textiles in public and private hands, to appreciate its quality and importance.
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