Exceptionally Rare Political Campaign Parade Torch
EXCEPTIONALLY RARE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN PARADE TORCH FROM THE 1860 or 1864 ELECTION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
Campaign parade torches were carried in nighttime processions when political candidates marched through cities giving speeches as they ran for public office. They were hollow and generally filled with whale oil or some other manner of fuel, lit by one or more wicks.
One of the most iconic of the many styles that existed is thought to have been made for Lincoln's campaign in 1860, just prior to the Civil War. Shaped like an eagle with two wicks protruding diagonally from the crests of its bent wings, this form was recorded by the Smithsonian's curator of political history, Herbert Ridgway Collins, in a monograph he authored on these objects. An example of it is illustrated as Figure 8 on page 21 of the article, entitled "Political Campaign Torches" (1964, Smithsonian Press, Bulliten 241: Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, Paper 45). Collins loosely dates the form to 1860, but states that it could date as early as the William Henry Harrison campaign of 1840. Although Collins explains that "no patent or contemporary illustration has been found," my personal suspicion is that the form was carried by the Wide-Awakes in 1860 or 1864. This was Lincoln's grass roots political power house, a well-organized fraternal organization that doubled as secret service to protect the President-elect as he marched through cities to give speeches at political rallies. The Wide-Awakes were known for their torch lit parades and their black cloth caps and cloaks were said to have originated from the need to protect themselves and their clothes from dripping oil.
Construction: Made of copper with brass wire.
Condition: The fact that the wire loop and fitting are present is extraordinary. The wooden staff is period to the torch or earlier, but is not original.