Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 31.5" x 37.75"
Flag Size (H x L): 22.25" x 28.5"

The earliest printed flags known to exist, that can be dated to a specific year, are those made for the 1840 campaign of William Henry Harrison. The Whig Party drew on nicknames and memorable slogans, as well as strong visual symbols, to promote their candidate as a war hero and man of the people.

In this example, printed on silk, Harrison’s honorary title, “Hero of Tippecanoe”, is printed in black pigment in the 10th and 12th stripes. Our nation's 9th president had a successful military career and is most famous for a battle with a feared American Indian chief, Tecumseh, on the banks of the Tippecanoe River. After this he gained the nickname “Old Tippicanoe”.

"Harrison and Reform" is printed in the 6th and 8th stripes in the same fashion. Campaign slogans are present on approximately 10% of all known presidential campaign parade flags, and this small percentage are among the most scarce. In other words, slogans are not only rare on parade flags, but those styles that do have slogans are often one-of-a-kind or one of a scant few in that exact form.

The flag's 13 stars are configured in a circular version of what is known as the "3rd Maryland" pattern. This beautiful and desirable design consists of a wreath of 12 stars, with a large star in the very center. The star count pays homage to the American Revolution, our struggle for freedom and the founding of our nation. All known varieties of Harrison flags have 13 stars except one, which has either 25 or 26 stars, depending on how they are counted, there being 2 stars in the center, one large, white star, with a smaller blue one inside it. The correct count of the latter flag is probably meant to be 26, because 1840 fell squarely within the 26 star period (1837-1845).

The earliest known parade flags date to this same eight-year time frame. All of the known examples without political advertising have 26 stars (as opposed to 13) and since they are not date able to any specific year, may have been made in any one of those eight years. If all of these non-political 26 star parade flags were made after 1840, that would mean that the William Henry Harrison examples are the earliest printed known to exist.

Note how the large star is canted at an angle, which adds a nice folk quality and movement to the design. Also note how the flag's proportion are nearer to square than many examples. Flags in this basic style were produced for both the 1840 and 1844 campaigns. The square format may have served so that the flag could be just as easily flown on a staff or tied like a kerchief. In any event, many of the earliest examples bear this square profile, which mimicked the shape of ground force military colors.

An example of this particular variety is pictured in "Threads of History: Americana Recorded on Cloth, 1775 to the Present", by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (1979, Smithsonian Press), item 142, p. 104.

Brief Notes on William Henry Harrison and the 1840 Presidential Election:
William Henry Harrison (b. Feb. 9th, 1773) was the son of wealthy plantation owner Benjamin Harrison V, who had been a delegate to the second Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Governor of Virginia.

Following the death of his father, in 1791, at the age of 18, the former General Henry "Light Horse" Lee, convinced William to join the army. He was sent to Cincinnati and participated in the Indian War, where he achieved much success and reputation, was promoted to Lieutenant, then aide-de-camp. He signed the treaty to end the war and in 1799 was elected to the Sixth United States Congress, which met in Philadelphia from March 4 of that year until March 4, 1801. In 1799, at age 26, he was also selected as the first delegate representing the Northwest Territory. He served this position from 1799 to 1800, having no authority to vote on bills but was permitted to serve on a committee, submit legislation, and debate. In this capacity he successfully promoted the passage of the Harrison Land Act, which made it easier for the average settler to buy small parcels of land in the Northwest Territory. In 1800 the territory was split in two to become the Ohio and Indiana Territories. Without informing Harrison, President John Adams nominated him to become governor of the Indiana Territory (1802), based on his ties to the area and neutral political stances. Harrison was confirmed by the Senate the following day. Caught unaware, Harrison accepted the position, yet only after receiving assurances from the Jeffersonian's that he would not be removed from office after they gained power in the upcoming elections.

Harrison's primary duties as territorial governor involved military action and negotiations with Native Americans. He continued to serve in the Northwest Territories during the War of 1812, then bought land in Ohio, where he became a United States Congressman (1816-1819), then an Ohio State Senator (1819-1821), then a U.S. Senator (1824-1828).

In 1840 the Whigs used various campaign tactics to portray Harrison as a commoner. His, opponent, incumbent President Martin Van Buren, was a New Yorker with an aristocratic air. This combined with an economic depression that included the devastating collapse of the Second National Bank of the United States, subsequently lost him the election.

Harrison was the last U.S. president to have been born under the British monarchy. At age 68, he was the oldest president elected to date, inspiring over 80% voter turnout. Today he is best remembered for serving the shortest term in the history of the American presidency. To prove he was not elderly and feeble, he gave a record-breaking hour-and-forty-five minute inauguration speech in freezing rain. Forgetting a topcoat, he then greeted guests and remained outdoors for a prolonged period. He subsequently caught pneumonia and died just 32 days after taking office. Vice President, John Tyler, was chosen for the ticket because he was a Southerner and thus balanced the interests of slave owners. Tyler finished out his 4-year term but was generally unsuccessful in the White House, unpopular, and did not seek reelection.

Election Results:
William Henry Harrison, Ohio (Whig) - 52.9% PV, 234 EV
Martin Van Buren, New York (D) - 46.8% PV, 60 EV

Mounting: The exceptional gilded frame has tremendous early surface and dates to the same period as the flag (ca 1830-1850). 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.

Condition: There is moderate to significant fading in the red stripes, accompanied by a small bleached area in the blue canton and moderate fading of the black text. There is minor bleeding and water staining throughout, accompanied by a scattering of dark stains between the 2nd-6th stripes from the center through the fly end, as well as toward the fly end of the 10th - 12th stripes. There are minor holes scattered throughout. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the great scarcity and desirability of Harrison campaign flags, and their survival among the earliest of all printed flags, well-warrants almost any condition issues.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Parade flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1840
Latest Date of Origin: 1840
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1777-1860 Pre-Civil War
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire

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