Jeff Bridgman, the nation’s leading dealer of antique American flags, will present “SEEING STARS: Politics and Patriotism”, an exhibition of over fifty rare and important American flags, political textiles, and patriotic folk art at the Union League Club of New York, 38 East 37th Street (southwest corner of Park Avenue and 37th Street). The exhibition opens May 12-29.
“I am delighted to present this exhibition at the Union League Club, which was founded during the Civil War to aid in Lincoln’s quest to preserve the Union,” said Bridgman, whose inventory of American flags and political campaign textiles is the largest in the world. “The exhibit offers me a unique opportunity to share our nation’s history as it was recorded on cloth during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Rarely am I compelled to present so many political textiles for sale in one setting.”
Among the selling exhibition’s highlights are:
● A very important portrait of George Washington, painted by Cyrus T. Feury, a Michigan barber. “If Washington were painted by Andy Warhol for artwork that would appear on a Campbell Soup can, he might look a good deal like this fabulous interpretation by Fuery,” said Bridgman. Dated 1917, the first year of U.S. involvement in World War I, and signed on the reverse, Fuery’s oversized canvas (30 x 40.5 inches) shows the hand of an accomplished folk artist. Though unlisted, his treatment of the angular facial features, serpentine brow, and hair are whimsical, bold, and appealing. Esteemed folk art expert and antiques dealer Don Walters seems to have agreed. While serving as chief curator of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, he included the painting in a special patriotic exhibit for the 1976 Bicentennial. The painting is priced at $40,000.
● A rare, large scale parade flag, made for the 1864 campaign of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, featuring 34 stars in a medallion configuration on a chrome blue canton. “This is one of the largest campaign parade flags that I have ever seen, from either of the two elections in which Lincoln ran,” said Bridgman. According to Bridgman, examples made for Lincoln are collectively the most valuable of all campaign flags and are highly sought after by collectors. This flag is priced at $58,000.
● A large-scale, printed silk kerchief featuring the Confederate President Jefferson Davis and eight of his staff members. Printed on silk and made during the Civil War, it is one of only two known examples in private hands. Three examples of this very rare kerchief exist in the collection of the Smithsonian. Its large scale typifies pre-1876 designs. In the center is a portrait of Davis, surrounded by a handful of significant Confederate personalities. “Note the nearly beardless portrait of Jackson and the completely beardless Lee,” says Bridgman, “which suggest an early war date of production. This is the only known style of kerchief made for the Union League's most formidable adversaries. It also represents the only possible means by which a collector of political textiles can truly own an example of every American president.” The kerchief is priced at $22,500.
● A very rare campaign flag, made for the 1912 presidential campaign of Teddy Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive Party ticket. “It became illegal in 1905, under Roosevelt’s tenure
in the White House, to use official national symbols for the purpose of advertising,” says Bridgman. “So Roosevelt used a flag that looked like the bandanas he so loved from the days he spent on the Western frontier.” Roosevelt, of course, was a prominent New Yorker. Four bull moose flank Roosevelt’s portrait in the center of this flag. “The Bull Moose was Roosevelt’s mascot,” says Bridgman, “akin to the Elephant and Donkey of the Republican and Democratic parties. His choice of the animal exemplified the hard-headed nature of this prominent New Yorker.” Framed on its original staff, the flag is $9,800.
● A very unusual, homemade Civil War flag, sewn by a woman named Hannah Maria Perkins for New York textile mogul, Daniel Parish, around 1862. This is one of only three Stars flags that I have ever seen with stripes that are made of patterned instead of solid fabric. In this case red stripes have a jacquard design was achieved by embossing cotton.
Daniel Parish, nephew of Thomas Powell, was an entrepreneur who, alongside brother, Henry, was one of the richest men in New York City during the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the 19th century. The Parrish mansion was located at the corner of Broadway and 5th Avenue. Period images of the interior of the home accompany the flag, as well as an image of a print that was made of the Parish house. “Shots of the interior of various rooms provide a rare peek into the life of this prominent New Yorker,” says Bridgman. It’s wonderful to have such documentation on such a small and interesting flag, which can easily be displayed in a modern, indoor setting. Parish’s involvement in the clothing industry would certainly explain the presence of the unusual red cotton. The rare patterned stripes and its whimsical stars are beautiful.” The flag is $25,000.
ABOUT JEFF R. BRIDGMAN AMERICAN ANTIQUES
Jeff Bridgman launched his business in 1990, during a summer break, while attending graduate school. He scoured yard sales, flea markets, and country auctions, doubling his money on fifty-cent items. “I also bought furniture,” says Bridgman. "I'd buy something for twenty-five dollars, refinish it and sell it for seventy-five. That was a big score." About two years later, at the urging of a friend, he moved up to shows. "I didn't know anything about the antique show circuit. I picked the first one in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, because I liked the ads," he says. He dealt largely in furniture and quilts, buying better ones as he moved up and gaining knowledge along the way. When he began making enough money as an Americana dealer, he quit his health-care research job and went to more and more fairs. At one in Nashville, he happened to see two small, framed, nineteenth-century printed flags. "I didn't buy them, but I was struck by them and the price. I thought they were cheap for something so graphic and historically important," he says. Today, with 600 plus antiques shows under his belt and an inventory of more than 1,500 antique Stars & Stripes, he is the leading authority on the subject.
Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques is located in historic York County, Pennsylvania.
For more information, please call 717-502-1281 or visit www.JeffBridgman.com.
The Union League Club of New York is located at 38 East 37th Street, at the southwest corner of 37th Street & Park Avenue. The exhibit will be open from Wednesday, May 12th until Saturday, May 29th. For additional information, phone (717) 502-1281 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Smart casual or business dress is required at the Union League. Admission is free.
Press Contact: Marilyn White