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    Description

    William Henry Harrison: Rare Variety of 1840 Silk Campaign Flag Banner. Harrison's was the first presidential campaign to make wide use of such campaign tools. Collins pictures no fewer than nine different varieties of WHH campaign flags, as well as an even wider variety of scarves and bandannas. In stark contrast, he lists only a single cloth item for Harrison's opponent, incumbent President Martin Van Buren, and it is a pennant style banner rather than a flag format. When campaign ferrotypes appeared in 1860, or when pinback celluloid buttons emerged in 1896, they were distributed in relatively equal numbers on behalf of all the active candidates. The disparity in the ratio of Harrison to Van Buren campaign textiles, also seen in the case of other campaign novelties such as tokens, ribbons, and brooches, clearly suggests that these wonderful campaign collectibles emanated from the genius of Harrison's campaign managers, not simply from the introduction of new types of campaign items.

    Most of the 1840 Harrison flags feature merely a campaign slogan or a central portrait of the candidate (see the two adjacent lots). The rare style offered here depicts the Harrison family cabin at North Bend, Ohio. The candidate, whose facial features are clearly identifiable, emerges from the front door to greet a returning soldier who is walking with a crutch on a peg leg. To the side of the cabin another man taps a barrel of hard cider, another of WHH's campaign symbols. Harrison's campaign correctly sensed the mood of post-Jacksonian America, and accordingly sought to portray the candidate as a common man. The family's Ohio log cabin is often featured, despite the fact that Harrison, at the time of his presidential candidacy, actually lived in a large clapboard home, doubtless one of the most luxurious residences in Indiana. Earlier, since the late seventeenth century, the family had been landed gentry in Virginia, with holdings on a par with those of Washington and Jefferson (Harrison family tradition holds that George Washington was William Henry Harrison's godfather).

    Collins does not list a campaign flag with this log cabin device in Threads of History, although he does illustrate a bandanna with the same image. It is our belief that not more than several other examples are extant. One such example was sold in December 2005 in a Chicago area collectibles auction for the sum of $41,020, believed to be a record price for a William Henry Harrison campaign textile.

    As is the case with most of this genre, the present example is a little battle-weary, although it compares favorably with the various Harrison flags pictured in Threads. The colors remain vibrant except that the unusual wavy stripes have faded to an orangish shade, often the case with the red dyes used on these banners. There is minor roughness along with top edge, but no apparent trimming around the perimeter. Some soiling along the left edge, and one light stain in the field to the left of the cabin. It is not uncommon for flags and bandannas of his era to show some deterioration in the center area where they were folded for storage. The present Harrison flag has several small separations in this area, although almost no loss of fabric. As presently displayed the separations are not, to our taste, terribly distracting. However, they could be largely mitigated by any good textile conservator if one felt the need. Overall very good display presence. 25" x 27", beautifully custom framed to and overall 32" x 35". This lot requires 3rd party shipping.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2010
    22nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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