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Political parade flags in Stars & Stripes format first appeared in 1840, made to advertise the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison. By the time that his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was seeking a second term in 1892, the use of such flags had become unpopular and by the time William McKinley was running for his first term in 1896, they had effectively disappeared.

The flag ethics that we have today begun to emerge between around 1890. It was at this time that public moved toward treatment of the flag as a sacred object. Twice during that decade bills were brought before Congress that attempted to outlaw the use of national symbols for the purposes of advertising, and although such legislation didn�t pass into law until 1905, a keen absence of post-1890 examples is evidence of the fact that politicians shied away from advertising on the flag.

This extraordinarily rare pair of 45 star parade flags was made for the 1900 campaigns of rival candidates William F. McKinley (R) and William Jennings Bryan (D). Printed on cotton, these textiles are a great representation of the departure from the practice of printing names and faces of political candidates directly onto the Stars & Stripes. Note that instead of printing text and portraits within the canton or stripe field, in this case the hoist end has been extended in order that it may incorporate matching oval medallions that contain images of each man and his running mate.

Scarcity is one of the many things that makes early campaign flags so interesting to collectors. Graphics are another. An interesting candidate is another. The presence of at least one portrait is particularly desirable, as are political slogans. In the case of these two flags, numerous important factors exist that make them extraordinary. Tied for first place are two facts. One is simply rarity. These two flags are especially rare. Two is the fact that the Bryan & Stevenson example represents the only known style of Bryan flag that is known from either of his two campaigns. So if a collector desires to own a parade flag from every candidate where at least one variety exists, the only way the collection can be complete is if an example of this flag is among them.

Tied for second place are two key facts. One involves the candidates themselves. The McKinley & Roosevelt example is the only known style of campaign parade flag in a Stars & Stripes format, from any year that Theodore Roosevelt ran for office, that actually includes his portrait. Roosevelt�s popularity among U.S. presidents is only slightly surpassed by Washington and Lincoln, and probably comparable with Jefferson. McKinley also remains a memorable character, not only because he served two terms, was well-liked and dynamic, but even more so because he was one of only four American Presidents that was assassinated. Recognizable names and faces raise the value of artifacts.

Of equal importance is the presence of jugate portraits on each flag, meaning both candidates are pictured, president and vice president. Jugate portrait flags are highly desired.

Yet another important feature is that both of the men pictured on the McKinley and Roosevelt example became president. Roosevelt first attained the office when McKinley was shot in 1901, then ran again and won in 1904. Two presidents on one flag is better than one.

Brief History of the Candidates and the 1900 Presidential Campaign:

Born in Ohio in 1843, William F. McKinley was the last Civil War veteran to obtain the Presidency of the United States. He enlisted in the war in 1861 at the age of 18 and mustered into the 23rd Ohio, where he served under future President, Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes promoted McKinley twice for valor. He left the army at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, Brevet Major of his company, then attended law school and was admitted to the Ohio bar. He gained political popularity while campaigning for Hayes in 1876 and was, himself, elected to a congressional seat on the Republican ticket in 1877. McKinley served several terms, followed by a successful gubernatorial campaign in 1891. It was during his second term as Governor of Ohio, in 1896, that McKinley ran for president and produced a solid win over Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

Among many other things, Theodore Roosevelt of New York was a Harvard graduate, a U.S. Naval historian, and a Western pioneer rancher and outdoorsman. He served as New York City Police Commissioner for two years, beginning in 1896, radically reforming the most corrupt police department in the U.S., then was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898. He then organized and led the First U.S. Cavalry Volunteers Regiment, drawing upon the resources of both his Harvard and cowboy friends, which became famously known as the Rough Riders. He returned from Cuba as a national hero and was chosen as McKinley�s running mate in 1900, because former Vice President Garret Hobart had died of heart failure in 1899.

Born in 1860, William Jennings Bryan was the son of Jacksonian Democrat, Illinois Senator Silas Bryan. A devout Presbyterian, Bryan attended law school at Union College (which later became Northwestern University) and passed the bar. He moved to Nebraska, where he was elected to the United States Congress in 1890 and again in 1892, but when he ran for Senator in 1894, he was overwhelmed by the Republican landslide that took place in that year. In 1896 he became the first presidential candidate to campaign from an automobile and delivered 500 speeches. In a typical day he spoke for six hours. He was liked by the masses because he was viewed as a commoner and an anti-imperialist, but the success of the Republican Party was fueled by economic collapse in 1893, which was blamed on Democrat President Grover Cleveland. Bryan, who was very liberal, disliked the railroads and banks and fought and uphill battle championing silver as the monetary standard. McKinley favored gold because it was the standard in other nations and silver was an inferior metal. Lack of faith in Democrat monetary policy, fueled by attacks on Bryan as a religious fanatic and anarchist who would ruin the economy, played a large role in his loss in the 1896 election.

The 1900 election was somewhat of a repeat of 1896, with Bryan running again on the Silver Standard platform against an incumbent McKinley and the Gold Standard. But this time the nation had just witnessed a swift victory in the Span-Am War (1898) and the economy was booming. McKinley won again easily.

Bryan�s running mate in 1900 was Adlai Stevenson I, of Illinois, a lawyer who served two non-consecutive terms in Congress. Stevenson was appointed Postmaster General by Grover Cleveland during his first term as President, then became Vice President under Cleveland following his victory in 1892. He ran unsuccessfully with Bryan in 1896, then ran for Governor in 1808, but lost. His name echoed through the 20th century, largely because Stevenson's grandson, Adlai Ewing Stevenson II, was Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 1952 and 1956 and Governor of Illinois, and his great-grandson, Adlai Ewing Stevenson III, was a U.S. senator from Illinois from 1970 to 1981 and an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Illinois in 1982 and 1986.

The result of the 1900 election took a quick turn in 1901. While attending the Pan-Am Exposition in Buffalo, NY, President McKinley was assassinated by Leon Frank Czolgosz, a young man with sociological and mental issues, who had become interested in the politics views of various radical anarchists. Bryan ran again for a third and final time in 1808 and lost to Republican Howard Taft.

Mounting: The silver gilt molding dates to the period between 1820 and 1860. The flags have been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The cotton was washed to remove 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. Spacers keep the textiles away from the glass, which is U.V. protective.

Condition: There is very minor foxing and staining, accompanied by a tiny amount o fraying and fading at the hoist end of the McKinley example, but the overall condition is excellent.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 1st Half 20th Century (1901 -1949)
Date: ca 1900
Origin: American
Condition: see description
Measurements: each flag: 6.5" x 13", frame: 22.75" x 22.25"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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