Given my armchair observance of Patriots’ Day, and then everything that happened on that sad day (and is still happening), I thought I’d retreat into a safe material world and examine some of the patriotic products that were produced in the decades after the American Revolution, some in the new country and some for the new country. It seems appropriate to continue exploring expressions of patriotism; after all, the real anniversary of Lexington and Concord is today. Right after the Revolution (literally) home furnishings which reflected the revolutionary spirit were produced both in this country and oddly enough, in Britain. Maybe it’s not odd: Britain was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution which was initiated by what I’ve always considered a uniquely pragmatic entrepreneurial attitude. I wish I could see the imagery more clearly in this first woodblock-printed wallpaper, but obviously it has deteriorated with time. Here is the catalog description from the Cooper Hewitt Museum: perhaps it will help you make out the Lexington Minuteman and his associates: Beside an Indian maiden, representing America, a patriot tramples British laws underfoot and extends the declarations of July 4, 1776, to Britannia, who weeps over a pedestal containing an urn, or a tomb. The whole is contained within a curtained arch. Printed in black, white and gray on a light colorless ground.
This paper was produced in America in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the same time as the textiles below, which are obviously in much better condition: The Apotheosis of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington is a copperplate-printed toile fabric produced in several colorways in Britain between 1785-1800, right after the first big defeat of the British Empire. I love George Washington’s leopard-driven carriage!
Apotheosis of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington fabrics in black and red colorways, collections of the Winterthur Museum and the Society of the Cincinnati; bed valence at Dumbarton House/National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
British pottery manufacturers were also quick to take advantage of the newly-independent emerging American market. Even if you’re just a casual picker, I’m sure that you have run into some of the blue-and-white transferware of the Clews Brothers, James and Ralph, decorated with American scenes and symbols at their factory in Cobridge, England in the 1820s and 1830s. You see it everywhere, in all sorts of forms.
“American” transferware, including a “States Design” platter below, made by James and Ralph Clews in England,c. 1819-36, Skinner Auctioneers Archives.
And how many gilt mirrors emblazoned with eagles were produced in the Federal era (or reproduced afterwards)? So many, and again, produced in all shapes and sizes in both America and England. Below is a particularly nice eglomise (reverse-painted) example featuring the USS Constitution made in Providence by Peter Grinnell & Son right after the War of 1812. And from the next decade, a beautiful “patriotic overmantle painting” from a Rockport, Massachusetts home. It is tempera on plaster (I’m wondering how they took it off the wall???), and sold for $61,ooo at a Christie’s auction in 2008.
This last painting does not really qualify as a commercially-produced product or a pattern, but it is so beautiful I wanted to include it. My last item–a handmade woven wool and linen coverlet with patriotic themes and symbols–dates from the mid-nineteenth century (1851 to be precise), just before patriotism becomes divided and divisive with the coming of the Civil War. Actually, even before 1850 the Abolitionist and Temperance movements produced their own patriotic/promotional objects. This lovely coverlet expresses a more personal patriotism, but also one in keeping with the functions of these other objects: Americans wanted the symbols and imagery of their new nation on their walls, on their tables, and on their beds.
Addendum: Last night on Salem Common: thousands walking, running, praying in support of Boston.