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Patriotic Silk Kerchief w/ 34 Star Flags & an Image of Washington, Civil War Era

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PATRIOTIC SILK KERCHIEF OF THE CIVIL WAR PERIOD, WITH AN ENGRAVED IMAGE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, CROSSED 34 STAR FLAGS, AN EAGLE, AND "UNION FOREVER" SLOGAN: Patriotic kerchiefs that date prior to the 1876 Centennial of American Independence are rare among surviving 19th century textiles. Printed on silk and made during the opening years of the Civil War, this example consists of a white ground with red and blue borders. Inside is a prominent, copper engraved, device that consists of a large image of George Washington, crowned by a spread winged eagle that grasps a billowing streamer in its beak and talons. The ribbon boasts the Federal sentiment "Union Forever." The likeness of Washington is derived from Gilbert Stuart's Athenaeum portrait. Below this is a facsimile of Washington's signature, cradled by crossed American flags, each with 34 stars arranged in circular medallions. Although political textile historian Herbert Ridgway Collins associated this kerchief with the centennial of American independence,* there is overwhelming evidence that it was produced earlier. The large scale is much more indicative of kerchiefs produced in the 1860's and prior. Made of silk, the binding is hand-stitched, which is also common of those produced before 1876. When these facts are added to the pro-Union Civil War slogan and flags in the 34 star count, the combination of all these factors points firmly to Civil War period manufacture. Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about two-and-a-half months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year and the star count remained official until July 4th, 1863. Further evidence can be found in an example of this kerchief that resides in the collection of the Adams County, Pennsylvania Historical Society, with firm provenance to a woman by the name of Emma Yount. The story goes like this: “With the Battle of Gettysburg looming and the countryside in turmoil, the Union cavalry rode into Gettysburg on the afternoon of June 30, 1863. The troopers dismounted and lounged in the town while awaiting further orders. During that time, the seven year old daughter of innkeeper Israel Yount, Emma, was playing outside their home when a cavalryman asked her to come and visit with him while he was resting. The cavalryman told her that he missed his young daughter at home and asked if little Emma would hug and kiss him on the cheek to remind him of his daughter, who he felt he might not ever see again. Emma asked her mother if she could do as the cavalryman suggested, and her mother considered the circumstances and allowed Emma to do so. Before leaving, the cavalryman gave young Emma a silk handkerchief he was carrying that featured George Washington's image and patriotic border and flags. Emma kept that handkerchief until her death in 1946 and it was then donated to the Adams County Historical Society.” The trio of brass rings, hand-sewn along the top edge, would have been added by a former owner so that it could be hung vertically. The textile itself is both beautiful in design and rare. Outside of an example pictured by Collins in his book “Threads of History” (Smithsonian Press, 1979), and the copy in the Adams County Historical Society, only three others like it are known to have surfaced, including this example. This condition is excellent for the period and it survives as an exceptional relic of the War Between the States. It is of interest to note that kerchief bears marked similarities to another, especially rare, pro-Union variety, that was produced in London for the American market. Notably larger in scale, but very much alike in terms of the fabric, the printing, the shades of red and blue, the verbiage, and the general overall graphic feel, it was produced by Foster & Porter, a known, English maker of printed kerchiefs. Instead of featuring George Washington, the imagery centers on a large cannon with an American flag flying above it, and text that reads "The Union, Constitution and the Flag Must and Shall Be Upheld." A signature below the slogan identifies the maker, who registered the design through official channels with the British government on May 25th, 1861. Though unsigned, I am fairly confident that the G.W. example is a companion textile, produced by Foster & Porter at approximately the same time and for the same audience. Mounting: The banner was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples. The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The two-part frame consists of a gilded French molding of exceptional quality, to which a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights, was added as a cap. The Spacers keep the glazing away from the glass, which is U.V. protective. Feel free to contact us for more details. Condition: Truly excellent for a silk kerchief of the period. There is exceptionally minor foxing and staining. There are minor splits in the silk fabric at the points where the brass rings were stitched and there are some nicks in the fabric along the lower left edge. There are some pinprick-sized holes along light fold lines. Frame size (H x L): Approximate 38" x 38.75" Flag size (H x L): 26" x 26.75".


  • Dimensions
    Height: 38 in. (96.52 cm)Width: 38.75 in. (98.43 cm)Depth: 2.5 in. (6.35 cm)
  • Materials and Techniques
  • Place of Origin
  • Period
  • Date of Manufacture
  • Condition
    See Item Description.
  • Seller Location
    York County, PA
  • Reference Number
    Seller: ker-2051stDibs: LU849713531952

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    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: York County, PA
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About the Seller
5 / 5
Located in York County, PA
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Established in 1991
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