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Printed on cotton, this extraordinarily detailed, large format kerchief pays respect to the Declaration of Independence through its depiction of the famous oil on canvas painting by John Trumbull, George Washington�s aide-de-camp and accomplished painter of historical images. Above the image is the following text:


Below the image is a legend that identifies each man by way of his printed signature.

Many have mistakenly called Trumbull�s painting �The Signing of the Declaration of Independence�, but what it actually portrays is the presentation of the original draft of the document to the Second Continental Congress on June 28th of that same year. This is why the illustrated men represent only 42 of the 56 who eventually signed the Declaration, while 5 of those present did not sign it at all. The draft was presented by �The Committee of Five�. Led by Thomas Jefferson (VA), this group included John Adams (MA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), Robert Livingston (NY), and Roger Sherman (CT). They stand before the table in the center of the illustration.

Trumbull painted many of these men from life and visited Independence Hall in order to get the elements of the interior correct. Trumbull was known for his accuracy of detail, so of notable interest is the rather ironic presence of crossed British flags on the wall in the background. His original painting now hangs in the Yale University Art Gallery, our nation�s first university museum, which Trumbull both designed and furnished with 88 of his personal works, sold to Yale in 1831 in exchange for a $1,000 annuity. Most of the fame of the painting, however, comes from the 12 x 18 foot copy that was commissioned from Trumbull by Congress in 1817 and placed in the United States Capitol Rotunda in 1826, where it remains today.

This kerchief is undocumented and represents the only known example in this exact style. Another style of the bandanna is known, however, produced by the same maker and very similar in appearance. It includes the same central image and signature legend, but also includes a second legend that identifies all the men by printed representations of their portraits. At least two color variations are known in this other style (blue vs. brown borders), an example of which is pictured in �Threads of History� by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1978, p. 200, item 418). Collins formerly served as curator of political history at the Smithsonian and his text is considered the definitive reference on American political textiles.

In his text, Collins dates the illustrated kerchief to 1876, under the surmise that it was made in conjunction with the 100-year anniversary of our nation�s independence. I do not agree with this date. The kerchief is of very large format when compared to those of the late 19th century. To this end, as well as for other reasons, it more closely resembles the kerchiefs made between the last quarter of the 18th century and the 1850�s. The textile has a very early appearance, partly because the illustration was made from a copperplate engraving and partly because the sepia and royal blue ink are commonly found in pre-Civil War, 19th century textiles. In addition, the binding of the top and bottom is hand-sewn with very fine precision. This is not the case with ca 1876 kerchiefs, which are far more likely to be bound with a treadle machine. Further, these kerchiefs are extremely rare. In my opinion, since none of their traits point to the late 19th century, the kerchief was not made to celebrate 100 years of American independence in 1876, but rather 50 years of independence in 1826 (our semicentennial or quinquagenary). This would coincide with the hanging of Trumbull�s painting in the Capital Rotunda and would thus better explain not only its size, coloration, and construction, but also its purpose.

Surviving examples of these kerchiefs are extremely rare. This particular example is the only one I have seen in this exact variety. Although similar bandannas are known, all of the ones I have seen differ slightly from one-another. I have owned two others. One of these was identical, but the border was blue instead of brown. The other, also blue, shows the same image on top, but in a smaller format, with a wider border, and instead of the sketched portraits below, it contains only signatures. The copy in the Collins book actually differs slightly from all of the above. It is also blue, but the word �Independence� is misspelled �Independance�. The Collins book also speaks of another example in a private collection, in which the word �independence� is spelled correctly. The color of this example, however, is unspecified.

On the original painting, many have noted that Jefferson�s foot, which is pointed at a somewhat odd angle, is purposely stepping on that of Adams. The two men were political enemies, so it is supposed that this was done on purpose. Close inspection, however, revealed that their shoes were merely close to one-another. Trumbull widened the distance in the Rotunda copy and a clear separation of their feet can be seen in the reproduction of the image on the kerchiefs.

Mounting: The kerchief was stitched to a background of 100% cotton, black in color, which has been 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. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. Spacers keep the textile away from the glass, which is u.v. protective.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1826
Condition: There is only very minor fading, foxing and staining. Overall condition is excellent.
Measurements: flag: 30" s 33.25" Frame: 41" x 44.25"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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