U.S. Americana Auctions, owned and operated by Tom French and Nathans Sims of Capitola, CA closed their 27th sale earlier this year with a great selection of political campaign buttons, vintage 3-D memorabilia and other Americana dating from the earliest days of our Democracy to the most recent campaign cycles. This month we will take a look at many of the items selling in the $2000 and up range, using the auctioneer’s own descriptions. First up was a FOR PRESIDENT JOHN W. DAVIS impressive 2 1/8" pinback. VERY faint discoloration around the perimeter is minor and detracts little from this large sepia rarity. It sold for $2100 (all prices realized have a 15% buyer’s premium added to the winning bid - i.e.: this pin-back’s final invoiced price was $2415.) A Spectacular and showy LINCOLN BRYAN CLUB badge from the Democratic National Convention DENVER 1908, rare 2 1/4" "FROM LINCOLN TO WASHINGTON" celluloid is suspended from a LINCOLN NEBR. celluloid/silvered brass badge by a patriotic silk ribbon, 2 7/8 x 9" overall and in near mint condition brought $2200. Flags continue to be actively sought by political collectors. Here, a FOR PRESIDENT, JOHN BELL FOR VICE PRESIDENT, EDWARD EVERETT, "The Union and the Constitution" glazed cotton flag, 7 7/8 x 11 3/8", except for one stain which is confined within the top white stripe, this is in bright, excellent condition and was raised to $2200.
Quadrupling its presale estimate of $600 was a Bryan and Sewall mechanical eagle pin from the 1896 campaign. Release the lever on the eagle's tail to reveal jugate portraits applied to the eagle's wings, 1 5/8 x 2" overall, retains most of its original silvered brass finish. The eagle is clutching a gold bug in its beak, with a raised "16" on its breast, still works well and is in excellent condition with original pin. This nice mechanical flew to $2400. A pair of nice pre-1896 ferrotypes are next on the chart, an ABRAHAM LINCOLN / HANNIBAL HAMLIN small 24 mm donut ferrotype from the 1860 campaign. The Lincoln side is in excellent, flawless condition and grades a 9 1/2. The Hamlin side exhibits faint, typical surface crazing when held at an angle. This distinctive ferro retains its full silvered brass finish. $2500 was needed to seal the deal. Next is another 1860 ferro – this time a BRECKINRIDGE AND LANE pristine side-by-side ferrotype in a beaded brass bezel 21 mm. The tintype is in bright, flawless, near perfect condition with a smooth, glossy finish and is likely the finest example known. The stickpin on the back is gone, but could be rather easily replaced if you chose to do so. It made the same $2500.
Automotive related political collectibles are very hot at the moment. A MY VOTE IS GOING TO HELP RE-ELECT HERBERT HOOVER tire cover from the 1932 campaign, about 29" diameter and in remarkable, excellent condition, lacking the straps on the back (which we're told is often the case) is rare and desirable and likely the finest example known rolled to $2750 – fueled no doubt by the opportunity late in the sale to purchase the F.D.R. mate.
The true star of the auction, however, had to be frequent Democratic candidate William J. Bryan, who appears in our results no less than 8 times with some very desirable pieces. A stunning 1 3/4" Bryan & Kern jugate pinback with bright, patriotic graphics, a terrific design and in choice, near mint condition pushed to $2750. Using a great coin design was a MONEY OF THE CONSTITUTION "NO TRUSTS - SILVER AND GOLD AT 16 TO 1 - NO IMPERIALISM" with a sepia portrait of Bryan over an outline of the U.S. and the inscription "W.J. BRYAN OUR NEXT PRESIDENT" above and "THE HOME OF THE FREE AND THE BRAVE" below. This fantastic 1 1/2" beauty is in near mint condition with its original backpaper: "THIS BUTTON CAN BE HAD at 15 Cents EACH...WRITE TO C.G. PITSCHKE, Villa Park, Colorado. WESTERN BUTTON CO., Mfr’s., Denver." Apparently a great investment at 15 cents – the price this day was $2750.
Dating to the early days of America’s National Pastime was a NATIONAL GAME Bryan baseball scoreboard stickpin, circa 1896, silver and gold washed brass shell with black enamel inlaid within the line score, 1 3/16" wide. At right is a batter with BRYAN in raised letters on his jersey. The scoreboard shows that the SILVER team beat the GOLD team by a score of "16 TO 1". The black enameling is nearly 100% intact. About 75% of the silver and gold wash remains. Among the most desirable Bryan pins, and this one is in excellent condition with the original stickpin, was a hit at $3250. Continuing the Bryan Bandwagon was the iconic William Jennings Bryan "octopus" poster from the 1900 campaign. 20 x 29 3/4", this retains its bright colors and is in near mint condition. Printed by The Strobridge Lithography Company in Cincinnati, this poster has it all, with images of the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, furled American flags, and a silver and gold dollar. At the bottom left is a woman wielding a "DEMOCRACY" hatchet in an attempt to cut the tentacles off the octopus "TRUSTS," absolutely sensational graphics, and arguably the finest campaign poster ever produced had a $3250 result. The solar eclipse of 1900 made its way onto many campaign items that year. Here, a TOTAL ECLIPSE Nov. 6. 1 1/4" pinback from the 1900 campaign shows William Jennings Bryan "eclipsing" William McKinley, a rare and very desirable classic in excellent condition with the inscription around the bottom edge: MADE BY "CRESCENT ART GALLERY" K.C. Mo. $3250 was the final price.
The 1924 campaign of John W. Davis produced a DAVIS AND BRYAN NEBRASKA ultra rare 15/16 X 1 1/4" cello in excellent condition with a PARISIAN NOV. CO. CHI. inscription around the curl. It was among the very best Davis pinbacks, which managed a final bid of $3750. Two more scarce Bryan buttons are the next highest selling lots. Spectacular graphics were on this 1 3/4" Bryan pinback from the 1908 campaign, rare and in pristine condition with a W.F. MILLER New York backpaper. We've always felt that W.F. Miller produced the very best graphic pinback buttons. An even $4000 was the tab. Also – a BRYAN-STEVENSON 1 1/4" sepia jugate in bold, excellent condition, the first time we've seen this unlisted rarity, "HURSEN CHICAGO" in tiny letters under the inscription came in at $4000.
Jumping back a few decades was a Magnificent McClellan brooch with an oval tintype set in a hollow 1 1/4 x 1 5/8" brass brooch with original T-pin on the back. Raised images on the brass feature an eagle above and a cannon below, with twelve conjoined ovals listing significant Civil War battles. Lustrous surfaces, and all components are in pristine condition, an absolute KNOCKOUT in every respect! This nice item commanded $4000.
The campaigns of 1920 had two very sought after pieces, a stunning large PEACE PROGRESS PROSPERITY 28 x 42" poster promoting GOVERNOR JAMES M. COX DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES printed on thick paper and mounted on linen, beautifully printed with attractive, subtle tones by Postergraph Company of Cleveland, OH. Despite a little damage it ended at $4000. Next was an outstanding Harding & Coolidge jugate pocket watch from the 1920 campaign, 2" wide. Aside from a trivial area of wear on the reverse of the chrome-plated brass case (which features an American flag and the inscription "HARDING FOR PRESIDENT"), this rarity is in excellent condition - and it still works, which is remarkable considering these were relatively cheaply-made watches. It ticked-off at $4750.
Abraham Lincoln appears next with an exceedingly rare Lincoln & Johnson 1864 campaign broadside entitled "Union Platform ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL CONVENTION AT BALTIMORE JUNE 7th 1864." A summarized text of the Platform within the center shield ends with "For President, Abraham Lincoln. For Vice-President, Andrew Johnson." Patriotic graphics adorn the perimeter and include portraits of Lincoln & Johnson, General Grant and General Sherman, as well as images of Miss Liberty and a kneeling slave, and the inscriptions "UNITED
WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL", "FREE HOME - SLAVERY - LIBERTY– EMANCIPATION-VICTORY-JUSTICE". What makes this broadside especially desirable is that it has portraits of Lincoln and Johnson, and there exist only a handful of posters or broadsides as such. A very fair $4750 secured the item due to a few condition problems.
A low estimate of $1500 was quickly exceeded on a rare Bryan & Sewall jugate portraits on a black star "TAMMANY DEM. EMBLEM STATE OF N.Y.", 1 1/4", in bright, excellent condition with Whitehead & Hoag Co. backpaper button which stopped at an even $5000.
Back to "Tire Talk," the aforementioned A BIG MAN FOR A BIG JOB tire cover from the 1932 campaign promoting FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT PRESIDENT, about 29" diameter and in remarkable condition, missing the straps on the back, and a mate to the Hoover tire cover offered elsewhere in this auction, rare and desirable, and likely the finest example known, hit the brakes at an astounding $6000.
The second highest selling lot of the sale was an outstanding 1 3/4" Roosevelt & Fairbanks cartoon pinback from 1904 by famed political cartoonist Clifford Berryman (facsimile signature "Berryman" at 4:00) with caricatures of President Theodore Roosevelt and Vice Presidential candidate Charles Fairbanks prancing along in a two-man parade. A Teddy Bear on stilts is holding a banner, which reads FOUR YEARS MORE OF THEODORE while clutching TR’s hand. A cartoon by Berryman entitled "Drawing the Line in Mississippi" in the November 16, 1902 edition of The Washington Post depicted TR showing compassion for a small bear cub. The cartoon inspired New York storeowner Morris Michtom to create a new toy called the Teddy Bear, which became (and remains) a national phenomenon Graphics and rarity make this one of the most sought-after and irresistible pinbacks ever produced. This example is in excellent condition with its original safety pin and TORSCH & FRANZ BADGE. CO., Baltimore backpaper with a finale of $7000.
The number one lot of the day was a previously unknown real photo Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington EQUALITY 1 1/2" pinback portraying Roosevelt and Washington dining at the White House on October 16, 1901. The 1 1/4" varieties depict a cruder likeness of Washington drinking liquor and are thought to exploit racist sentiments, but this and another 1 1/2" version were issued to celebrate the event and the notion of racial equality. This example differs considerably from the other known 1 1/2" pinback, with notably different portraits and background, and a more lavish spread on the dinner table, an extraordinary find purchased a few years ago at a country auction near Kansas City - for the sum of $20. Filled back is stamped "O.G. HURSTON PALMER HOUSE PIN-LOCK PAT'D MAY 31 '98", in flawless, excellent condition. A number of bidders pushed the possibly unique pin-back to $20,500 – or over 1000 times the lucky finder’s purchase price!
U.S. Americana Auctions can be found at www.USAmericanaAuctions.com, or feel free to contact Tom French at 800-372-0605.
This column appears regularly in The American Antiquities Journal. I invite readers to e-mail or write me if they have questions about political buttons or other political items in their possession. A good description accompanied with a photocopy or scan will have the best chance of receiving a response in future columns. Due to time and space limitations, all questions cannot be answered. Please limit your questions to one or two items. A S.A.S.E. will enable me to return your photo\xerox if so desired. Personal replies depend on the volume of mail received. Michael J. McQuillen can be reached by writing him directly at P. O. Box 50022, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250-0022, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or at his website: www.PoliticalParade.com.
1&2) Campaign Tire Covers were once a popular method of political advertising. These great Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover examples sold at auction for $6000 and $2750 respectively.
3) An 1860 Bell & Everett word name campaign flag flew brightly at $2200.
4) The Number One top selling lot of the recent U.S. Americana Auctions was a rare Teddy Roosevelt – dining with Booker T. Washington cartoon picture button which soared to $20,500.