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34 star American national parade flag, printed on coarse, glazed cotton, made for the 1880 presidential campaign of James A. Garfield and Chester Arthur. This particular flag is presently the only known example in this exact style. Measuring approximately 28 x 43 inches, it also happens to be the largest known campaign parade flag that has survived from the 1880 election. Larger flags like this were evidently produced in smaller numbers. Because they were more difficult to store and more likely to be damaged over time, logic suggests that they were also more readily discarded. Generally speaking, larger political flags are more desirable because they are simultaneously a lot more rare and provide more graphic impact. Unlike 19th century flags with pieced-and-sewn construction, the very largest examples do not exceed 5 feet in length. Note the great folk qualities present in the style of lettering used to block print the flag, which is particularly whimsical and unusual. The same style of text is seen on a much smaller (9.75 x 14 inch) 38 star flag with a Garfield and Arthur overprint that is documented in �Threads of History�, by Herbert Ridgeway Collins (Smithsonian Press, 1979). Collins served as curator of political history at the Smithsonian and his book serves as the most complete reference on surviving political campaign textiles. Note the bold, chrome orange coloration. This is not a result of fading, but is rather a product of the pigment employed in the printing of the red color in many flags of this nature that were produced during this period. Tinted with cochineal, their hue is both peculiar and attractive, as well as substantially different from that seen in their modern counterparts. Note also how the stars point in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds to the overall presentation. Note also the use of 34 stars as opposed to 38, the latter of which was the official count in 1880. 34 stars may have been employed on purpose to promote Garfield's military career as a Civil War general. The nation had 34 states between 1861 and 1863, the opening two years of the war. It is interesting to note that the use of the 34 star count is also seen on a flag made for the campaign of opposing democrat candidate Winfield Scott Hancock, who had an illustrious Civil war military career. Hancock used this platform to appeal to the primary voting audience in the North, which was comprised of Union Army veterans. Garfield's and/or his supporters may have chosen 34 star flags as one method of counterbalance. It may be that 34 star flags were simply used because they were available, left over from the war. Whatever the case may be, the use of 34 stars adds interest to the presidential campaign of a Civil War veteran. This added to the combination of large size, interesting text, and strong color results in a terrific 19th century example. Another interesting fact is rooted in the history of the Garfield and Arthur story. Because Garfield was assassinated during his presidency and was replaced by Vice President Arthur, both men served the nation�s highest office. Having the names of two presidents is a desirable feature on political campaign cloth and is unusual simply because the Vice President so rarely gained the White House. The 1880 election, its candidates, and the unfortunate event that followed made for one of the most interesting campaigns and presidencies. While the campaign platforms were relatively uninteresting, because they were so similar, the election results would become one of the most unusual in American presidential politics. Garfield and Hancock nearly tied in the popular vote, tallying 4,446,158 and 4,444,260, respectively. This represented approximately 48.3% for each candidate. Garfield won the electoral vote, however, 214 to 155. The margin between the two candidates in the popular vote remains the smallest ever in U.S. history. James Abraham Garfield was a professor who left academics for law before his 1859 election to the Ohio State Senate. Like his Democrat opponent, Winfield Scott Hancock, Garfield served as a Union Army General during wartime. Though successful would be an accurate description of Garfield�s military career, it was brief and unlike that of the much-celebrated Hancock. Garfield left the Army during wartime, in 1863, when he was elected to the United States Congress. His promotion to major general came after the Battle of Chickamauga, shortly after he had been elected. In 1876 he moved to the Senate and became the Republican floor leader. In that same year he was appointed to the highly controversial Electoral Commission that put Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House despite his loss of the popular vote. In 1880 he ran for president and won, though he served less than four months in office. He became the second U.S. president to be assassinated when he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2nd, 1881, a disgruntled man who unsuccessfully pursued a political appointment following the election. Garfield lived until September 19th, when he died as a result of his wounds. Chester Arthur succeeded to the presidency and served out the remainder of the term. Like many Vice Presidents, Arthur was chosen for political advantage, to placate his faction, rather than for skills or loyalty to his running mate. He is an interesting figure in political history for several reasons, among them the rather shocking fact that he may not have been a U.S. Citizen. Arthur�s parents were Irish immigrants to Canada and lived just 80 miles from the Vermont border before moving to the U.S.. Arthur claimed to have been born in 1829 in the town of Fairfield, Vermont, though no birth record has ever been found and he artfully avoided the question of his possible birth on Canadian soil. On at least one occasion he reported the date of his birth as 1830 instead of 1829, and there seems ample reason to be suspect of the information he provided. Arthur was a member of the Stalwarts of the Republican Party, a faction the opposed Civil Service reform and was less moderate than the politics of the supporters of Rutherford B. Hayes. Before Charles Guiteau surrendered to authorities he shouted: �I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts...Arthur is president now!�, which resulted in no lack of further controversy and questioning. As a result, Arthur laid low after the shooting, retiring to his home in New York. He rarely appeared publicly and effectively left the nation fumbling, without a leader, until Garfield�s passing. Before politics, Arthur practiced law and was a strong supporter of equal rights for blacks. During the Civil War he served as both quartermaster general and inspector general, with the eventual rank of brigadier general. He returned to law after the war and, in 1871, was appointed by President Ulysses Grant as Collector of the Port of New York, a powerful and lucrative position that he served until 1878. After the presidency he returned to New York and died the next year from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was interred at Menands, New York. Mounting: The flag has been hand-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. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1880
Condition: There are a number of very tiny holes and very minor foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by minor fraying around the perimeter. There is moderate dye loss, foxing and staining at the fly end. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Further, the great rarity and importance of this example well-warrants the condition.
Measurements: Frame: 40.25" x 55.25" Flag: 28" x 43"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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