Clay & Frelinghuysen campaign banner makes $81,000

An 1844 Clay & Frelinghuysen campaign banner led Heritage Auctions’ sale of the David and Janice Frent collection of political memorabilia in Dallas.  

It realised $81,250 in the October 21 sale.

Clay campaign flag

Whig candidate Henry Clay lost out to Democrat James Polk in the 1844 campaign

Henry Clay was the Whig Party’s presidential candidate for the election that year, with Theodore Frelinghuysen standing as his vice presidential nominee.

The pair narrowly lost out to Democrats James Polk and George Dallas.

The flag features some interesting symbolism. The cider barrel (and the log cabin in the distance) is a call-back to Whig president William Henry Harrison’s hugely successful 1840 campaign.

Then the Democrats suggested that Harrison would be happier to go and get hammered on cider in his cabin then focus on the serious business of running the country.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, many Americans were born in log cabins and were partial to a drop of hard cider themselves (it was then very much a working class libation).

The Whigs began using cabins and cider barrels in their campaign. They returned to the symbolism in 1844, but it failed to work its magic this time around.

The racoon perched on the barrel, along with the words “the same old coon” is a reference to Clay’s nickname (the Kentucky Coon). Again, it’s a phrase originally used to mock Clay’s repeated attempts at the presidency, which the Whigs adopted whole-heartedly.

Heritage explained prior to the sale: “The condition of this flag is simply breathtaking, unexcelled by any political flag of the era we have ever seen.

“As items such as flag banners have increased in value, condition has become more and more important in setting market value.”

Another in similar condition sold for $45,350 at Cowan's a couple of years back, indicating growing demand. 

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