Historic York County York, PA United States 717.502.1281
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Hand-Painted Patriotic Banner with the Seal of the State of Oregon

Origin United States
Period 19th Century
W. 50.25 in; H. 78.75 in; D. 4 in;
W. 127.64 cm; H. 200.03 cm; D. 10.16 cm;
Condition Good. See Item Description.
Creation Date 1861-1876

Swallowtail format, patriotic vertical banner bearing the name and the seal of the State of Oregon. Made in the period between 1861 and the 1876 centennial of American independence, the textile is entirely hand-painted on heavy cotton or linen.

Note the bold and interesting imagery, which includes a modernistic, folded streamer on a cornflower blue register with 22 visible stars. In the centre of the red and white striped field below, which ends in a forked swallowtail, is a rendition of a seal used by the Oregon Territory.

The seal of the State of Oregon was actually designed in 1857, two years before Oregon became a state, with the expressed intent that it would be adopted when statehood was achieved. The first seal of the Oregon Territory was employed by its provisional government, between 1843 and 1849. It featured a salmon fish below three sheaves of wheat. When the territorial government arrived in 1849, the "Salmon Seal" was replaced by a new device, which is very similar to the one featured on this banner. Artists painting state seals in early America often exercised great liberty in their work, but this example is surprisingly true to form. It features a beaver above a fanciful, scrollwork shield, flanked by a Native American on the left and an eagle in the lower right. Charges in the escutcheon include a tall ship at the top canton and a landscape with mountains below. Deviations include the lack of five, five-pointed stars arched below and the placement of the latin motto "Alis Volat Propriis" (she flies with her own wings). On the actual seal, the motto appears in a circular arch along the top. One the banner, it is placed below within a billowing red streamer.

This textile was found among a series of banners representing Mississippi, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Louisiana, and New York City. One representing Kansas is also known. Kansas joined the Union in 1861. Unless like banners were produced for some of the Western Territories, in anticipation of future statehood, the group dates no earlier than that year. The presence of the New York City example suggests that whatever event they were used at occurred in New York.

Based Upon the minor to significant deviations from "official" designs that are present among the other banners, it seems likely that whomever was painting the devices was probably working from a series of drawings or perhaps, in some cases, even written descriptions. There would have been no widely available book or chart that would contain every state seal and even if there was, it would not have been kept up-to-date with yearly revisions. Nineteenth century flag-makers would have had to make do with whatever information was available to them.

Banners of this type were often hoisted on single vertical staffs that held the rope aloft in the center. This basic style was both carried in parades and affixed on mounts indoors. Similar decorations and banners can be seen along the walls at early political conventions, or hoisted among benches, where they denoted the positions of the seating of attendees from various states. The 1868 Democrat National Convention was held in Manhattan at Tammany Hall. A colorful illustration, printed for Joseph Shannon’s Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York, shows the interior of the building masterfully festooned with patriotic banners, medallions, and buntings of similar nature, but none that match this particular style. Only the front and central interior are pictured, but two full sets of state identifying decorations are shown. This banner and its mates could well have hung elsewhere on the premises. No Republican National Conventions were held in New York during the 19th century.

An alternative possibility is that the banners were used in festivities pertaining to the centennial of American independence in 1876, either in New York or at an event such as the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, a six-month long World's Fair event, where a city like New York probably had its own pavilion, along with each individual state.

Whatever the case may be, the textile is a boldly graphic, colorful survivor and presently represents the only 19th century textile of its kind that displays this device of the Oregon Territory. Note the interesting folk features in the face of the Indian and the stylized eagle, which is unique to the artist who painted all of the banners in the series. Note also the metallic painted, scrollwork window in which the shield is displayed.

Construction: Painted cotton or linen tacked to a wooden staff with acorn finials that is original to the banner. A length of red wool tape was used to reinforce the point where the tacks are affixed.

Mounting: The banner has been hand-stitched to a background 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye, which was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. A shadowbox was created to accommodate the staff. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is minor soiling and there was minor to moderate paint loss, especially towards the bottom of the stripe field. Professional restoration was undertaken, particularly to strengthen the presentation in this area, but great care was taken to tread lightly and preserve the original condition.

Measures: Frame size (H x L): 78.75" x 50.25"
Flag size (H x L): 65" x 34".
Styles / Movements Americana, Folk Art
Incollect Reference Number 248697
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