LINCOLN & HAMLIN "WIDE AWAKE" 1860 HAND PAINTED ALL-SEEING-EYE PARADE BANNER.
As the election year of 1860 dawned, America remained a youthful country with over half of the population aged 19 or younger. Fractured along a North & South meridian, the experiment in self-governance, then 84 years on, was in peril. Early in March a group of 36 young men from Hartford, CT formed a political group, The Wide Awakes, inspired by a gaunt young politician from Illinois who had thrust himself into the presidential spotlight after a speech at Cooper Union, New York advocating the rights of workers and the end of slavery's spread. On March 5, after Lincoln's address in their hometown the group, clad in their oilcloth capes with torches aloft and band in tow, formed a marching party to escort Lincoln to his resting place for the night. The spectacle impressed Lincoln who encouraged this grassroots youth faction whose numbers soon began to rise across the country. By mid-summer Wide Awake groups had sprung up in every Northern state, their quasi-military fraternal hierarchy gave structure and identity to its burgeoning politically minded youth members now emerging as a force and enchanting the Northern electorate with massive evening demonstrations of torches, bands, banners and fireworks. They naturally adopted the Providence or All-Seeing-Eye to illustrate their political awakening utilizing the powerful imagery across their marches. By Oct. the group had swelled to nearly 500,000 members with demonstrations in New York and Chicago attracting tens of thousands during the final month of the presidential campaign. Lincoln's victory solidified the group as the most effective grass roots political organization in US history. Artifacts produced by the Wide Awakes, beyond some tokens, is notoriously scarce with items featuring the All-Seeing-Eye ranking among the most coveted by collectors. Banners like this are almost non-existent, especially in private hands, and even when considered alongside other pre-Civil War textiles, this artifact's uniqueness and visual appeal distinguish it among its impressive peers.
17.5x39" hand stitched cotton panels retaining metallic fringe along bottom edge and vegetable dyed cotton band at top w/loops for securing to a pole. Design is dominated by a large 'All Seeing Eye' in top field accented by star rosettes at each corner. Bottom field has two red stripes flanking a center cream stripe with text "Lincoln Hamlin." Vertical fabric separations noted for accuracy: four in blue field- a 3" & 1" at bottom left, a 3" & 1.5" at lower right; three in the right red stripe- a 2" at top center, a 1.5" & 3" at extreme bottom right and two in white stripe- a 5" & 1.25" in lower left field not affecting text. Additionally, we note two horizontal fabric separations at bottom of white stripe where decorative fringe has slightly separated and faint damp staining throughout most notably in cream field affecting the "lin" in "Hamlin." Otherwise moderate handling and even toning consistent with use and age. Fine. These condition issues are relatively moot especially when considering the banner's uniqueness, historical importance, intended use and the over 160 years it has endured. All in all, it is extremely well preserved. Fresh to market having spent over 30 years deeply embedded in an outstanding collection now coming to market and likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain this important investment grade Lincoln display item destined to be the focal point of its next owner's collection.