On this 11th day before Christmas, Guest Editor Andrea Valluzzo introduces us to the most patriotic of themes – the American Flag. This Christmas, with troops returning, a survey of this unique category of Americana could not be more appropriate.
There is nothing that says Americana more succinctly than the American flag. In both its official capacity as a banner borne during war and peace and its thematic adaptation across crafts disciplines, the stars and stripes have undergone a variety of changes.
Antique American flags reflect both their era and usage. From banners to ensigns, the flag evolved from featuring 13-stars to 31-stars, and then 45. They are desirable in both pre- and post Civil War designs. Often a bit tattered due to decades of use, these historic flags are all the more precious and glorious in their resilient beauty.
The Star Spangled Banner motif can also be found in a wide range of forms from painted chests and quilts to weathervanes and other decorative items.
Among the most well known patriotic Americana examples are Bellamy eagle plaques. John Bellamy, a 19th Century carver spent most of his time in Kittery, ME, although he was known to work throughout New England. The eagles he delivered were commissioned for sailing ships and for homes.
Although Bellamy never signed his works, his style is easily recognizable. He favored highly stylized painted eagles, resplendent with intricacies like draped flags and serpentine banners. The banners usually announced such slogans as “God is Our Refuge and Strength” and “Remember the Maine.”
While we generally shy away from valuations, it is of interest to note that Bellamy eagle plaques have fetched as much as $600,000.
Imagine the quilting bee with women creating art from carefully cut scraps of fabric. The quilts mostly took their character from motifs like the herringbone,
rings, log cabins and triangles. Amon the most beautiful of patterns is the one called the Star Spangled Banner – also known as Star & Feather. It is comprised of 8-point stars rendered in red, white and blue. An embellished border of feathers, perhaps a metaphor for the American Eagle, completes the design.
Items painted in red, white and blue have become highly desirable among patriotic collectibles. They range in form from tin shields (like today’s featured image above) to patriotic gameboards, and turned wood barbershop poles. Most date from the mid-1800s and – because of their simplicity and their message – are highly sought after.
Choice examples of patriotic pottery can be seen online in Winterthur’s exhibition, “Patriotic America: Blue Printed Pottery Celebrating A New Nation.” Developed in conjunction with The Transferware Collectors Club, and Historic New England, the circa 1818-1830 dark blue and white printed wares are noteworthy as they depict key events and places in America’s early history. The exhibit is on view at www.americanhistoricalstaffordshire.com.
Patriotic Americana is a strong symbol of our country’s perseverance. To collect it is to pay homage for the principles that guide our nation.
Category: 12 Days of Americana