Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Home  /  Sold Antiques





  MASTERPIECE QUALITY SCHERENSCHNITTE, IN THE STYLE OFTEN ATTRIBUTED TO ISAAC STIEHLY, WITH A PATRIOTIC EAGLE AND REFERENCE TO THE 1844 NEW YORK MAYORAL ELECTION, WON BY NATIVIST CANDIDATE & PUBLISHING MAGNATE JAMES HARPER
Dimensions (inches): frame - 22.25" x 26.25", work - 14" x 17.75"
Description:
MASTERPIECE QUALITY SCHERENSCHNITTE, IN THE STYLE OFTEN ATTRIBUTED TO ISAAC STIEHLY, WITH A PATRIOTIC EAGLE AND REFERENCE TO THE 1844 NEW YORK MAYORAL ELECTION, WON BY NATIVIST CANDIDATE & PUBLISHING MAGNATE JAMES HARPER:

This exceptional patriotic scherenschnitte was executed in the style often attributed to Pennsylvania German minister Isaac Stiehly (1800-1869). Scholars now agree that one or more artists, working in New York, were producing their own work in a very similar style. Several examples are known that bear the names of New York and/or New Jersey residents. Two in particular include text that celebrates the 1844 New York mayoral election victory of publishing magnate James Harper [founder of what is now Harper Collins]. Harper was running on a ticket sponsored by the American Republican Party, a nativist organization concerned with the loss of American jobs to Irish immigrants.

Note the quality of the cutwork on this example, including the lift work within the eagles’ feathers, the snowflake medallions, and the fine script that reads: "American Republican Victory April the 8th 1844." Another extant example includes similar text that reads: "American Republicans. Victorious 1844. 24,500 Votes." Harper won the mayoral race with 24,510 votes, defeating Locofoco Party [anti-Tammany hall Democrat] candidate Jonathan I. Coddington , who received 5,297 votes, and Whig Morris Franklin, who received 20,538.

The primary graphics on this work include an eagle gripping a rattlesnake, the distinctly American device so popularized in modern times by the reproduction of the Gadsen flag with its “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan. American flags, tipped at an angle, flank each side of the eagle's head. The eagle grasps one of these in its beak, which bears the small image of an eagle in its canton and may represents a particular style of flag favored by the political organization. The flag on the other side is more traditional in style. Note how each substitute crosshatches for stars, which adds a naïve aspect to the design.

Details in the flags are painted, as are other elements, which isn't typical of most of the scherenschnitte previously attributed to Steighly. In most examples, use of color is more limited. Block style text in an arch above the eagle reads: "Beware of Foreign Influence" (a typical nativist slogan). Below the name " Robert W. Lawrence" appears in script. Lawrence, a lifelong New Yorker, was a carpenter, which meant that he was in precisely the sort of profession affected by the influx of cheap immigrant labor. Based on this example and other Steighly-type patriotic cutwork pictures with names, the identity is that of the recipient as opposed to the maker. The tools of his trade are represented below his name. This additional imagery is unusual, as-are the figures of a Jack Tar sailor and Lady Columbia, on either side of federal shield, holding an American flag and a liberty cap with pole, respectively, in the center of the top border. These are placed on either side of a patriotic shield and are flanked by cannon.

The American Republicans were a third-party political faction, launched in New York in 1843, which spread to Philadelphia and succeeded in the election of several congressional candidates in the two respective cities, as well as Mayor Harper. Popularity grew as conflict escalated between existing protestant residents and the swell of Irish and German Catholic immigrants. The fervor of resulting violence culminated during the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, which took place between May and July. These were also termed the “Prayer” or “Bible Riots”. In addition to numerous deaths and injuries, a convent and several Catholic Churches were burnt to the ground by nativists in response to a spreading a rumor that Catholics were trying to remove the Bible from public schools.

Although nativist groups denied responsibility in the burnings, the events led to negative publicity that tempered support for nativist activities in general. These were the roots, however, of a growing movement, from which sprang the Native American Party and eventually the American Party of the 1850's, better known as the "Know-Nothings."

In Philadelphia the Native American Party/American Republicans were led in part (there was more than one figurehead) by a Jewish, Charleston, South Carolina-born Philadelphian named Lewis C. Levin. Levin himself is of particular interest from a religious standpoint, because when elected in 1844 with American Republican support, he became the first Jewish member of the United States Congress.

Stiehly, the most prolific of all Pennsylvanian scherenchnitte artists, worked in the Mahantango Valley, a small, pocketed area north and generally east of Harrisburg, where some of the state’s most valuable and sought after examples of 19th century folk art have surfaced. He became a Pennsylvania German Reformed pastor in 1824 and served the church and his community until his death in 1869. He appears to have been a proponent of American Republican ideals, not all of which were of questionable moral grounds. Some of the scherenschnitte attributed to him feature the words "Temperance" and "Liberty".

Louis Levin was the editor of two influential newspapers of the 1840's, the "Daily Sun" and the "Temperence Advocate". Because newspapers were the primary means of disseminating information in the period, it may be that Stiehly, in rural Northumberland County, was exposed to the political and moral motivations of Levin's ideology through these papers. In 1852 Levin staged a "bonfire of booze" to draw attention to his campaign against taverns, for example, which might have been right up Steighly's ally as a leader of a protestant church.

Levin considered himself one of the foremost patriots of his time. According to an article by John A. Forman, entitled "Portrait of an American Demagogue" (American Jewish Archives, October 1960), "The cult of American patriotism was [Levin's] banner. 'I go for everything American in contradistinction to everything foreign,' he loved to say. His one great object was the attainment and preservation of America's 'national character'." Levin or one of his counterparts in the nativist movement may have come in contact with one of Stieghly's eagle cutwork pictures, which would explain how the art form spread to New York. Major patriotic fraternal organizations with roots in Pennsylvania spread there as well, Among these were the Society of Red Men (founded 1813), the Order of United American Mechanics (1844), and shortly thereafter the Jr. Order of United American Mechanics (1853), and the Patriotic Order Sons of America (1853). All of these would have been likely conduits for the transfer or patriotic folk art from Pennsylvania to New York.

Whatever the case may be, this is a very interesting example, large in scale and uncommonly colorful, with additional imagery that isn't usually present, specific history to a New York resident, and with political reference as well as patriotic.

Mounting: The paint-decorated, ripple-profile molding dates to the period between 1830 and the 1850's. To this a late 19th century liner was added. This is a sandwich mount between 100% cotton twill, black in color, and U.V. protective acrylic. The black fabric was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose.
   
Primary Color: ivory white
Earliest Date: 1844
Latest Date: 1844
For Sale Status: Sold
Price SOLD
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
Page Views:... 1676