Polk & Dallas Double-sided jugate Political Campaign Banner from the 1844 campaign. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions
Political banners and pinbacks from 1844 reveal the good and bad sides of politics
BY SEAN LEYWES
DALLAS – As the 2016 political season heats up, collectors are looking back in time to collect important political memorabilia. At Heritage Auctions presentation of the Merrill C. Berman Collection Part II, an outstandingly preserved hand-painted, double-sided jugate banner from the 1844 presidential campaign of James K. Polk made political news when it sold for $185,000. With the sale, the banner became the most valuable piece of political memorabilia ever sold at public auction.
This is the second that the 1844 presidential campaign banner of James K. Polk has been seen publically in more than 30 years. The 171-year-old banner was first shown publicly when it graced the cover of the catalog for the 1984 exhibition of items from the Berman Collection at the Hudson River Museum. The banner spans 76″ x 75″ and its colors and portraits of Polk and running mate George M. Dallas remain vivid and vibrant.
The James K. Polk Presidential campaign banner was just one of the political memorabilia that did well at this Heritage Auctions event that realized $756,178 and recorded a sell-through rate exceeding 98 percent by value.
A 1844 election banner featuring Polk in addition to his opponent Henry Clay also did well. The folk-like hand-painted banner is both hilarious and poignant. The scene depicts Clay giving Polk a sound drubbing. Standing under a soaring eagle holding a banner reading “Protective Tariff,” an issue central to Clay’s campaign, the politicians battle it out. Underneath the banner is a clever verse that describes Polk as a scoundrel. The banner shows no attempt at political correctness. It reads:
Thus Polk the scoundrel tries
Our tariff low to lay
While to its rescue flies
The gallant Henry Clay.
The banner which shows how volatile politics can be sold for $31,250.
A very rare large “pewter rim” engraved portrait of Andrew Jackson under glass estimated at $2,500 sold for $20,000. Measuring a full 94 millimeters in diameter, this political item is highly sought-after by collectors of pre-Civil War political and presidential memorabilia. Evidently, this is why collectors could not hold back in their desire to own this piece of political history. Although quite prolific at the time, few remain of engraved portrait of Andrew Jackson and larger specimens like the one auctioned by Heritage Auction’s make it even more valuable.
A classic Abraham Lincoln Ambrotype Brooch by George Clark also made good showing at the Heritage Auctions sale of political memorabilia. Perhaps one of the most famous of all photographic political badges of all time, the Brooch surpassed its pre-auction estimate of $5,000 selling for $16,250.
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In addition to the banners, pinbacks from the storied Berman collection lived up to its reputation as a jugate of Cox and Roosevelt. Referred to as the iconic “Americanize America” button, the piece sold for $20,000 despite some minor condition issues. Also, a rare jugate pinback of Davis and Bryan, the Democratic ticket which lost badly to Coolidge and Dawes in 1924 sold for $18,750. A stunningly-vibrant jugate by American Artworks of Coshocton, Ohio, featuring Wilson and Marshall brought $11,875.
The Heritage Auctions sale of political memorabilia cut across different political spectrum. From banners to pinbacks, the Merrill C. Berman Collection Part II is rich and vibrant. While many of the items in the collection show the importance of political branding, it also shows that politics can be explosive. From some of the political items at the auction, it is clear that politicians are not always polite.