Skip to main content

Know-Nothing Party flag tops Cowan's sale

A rare Know-Nothing Party flag sold for $42,300 highlighting Cowan's Auctions Historic Americana Including the Civil War and West Sale held on December 4 and 5.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

KNOW-NOTHING PARTY FLAG, glazed muslin, 29" x 50".
Printed in red, blue, and black with canton bearing a
spread-winged American eagle surmounted by a ribbon banner
bearing Native American , the eagle holding a patriotic shield in
its beak and flanked by stands of American flags, at its feet, a ballot
box bearing the slogan Twenty-One Years. Price Realized: $42,300.00

Image placeholder title

A rare Know-Nothing Party flag sold for $42,300 highlighting Cowan's Auctions Historic Americana Including the Civil War and West Sale held on December 4 and 5 in Cincinnati.

The flag, which reads "Native. Americans. Beware of Foreign. Influence," is a prime example of the extreme patriotism Native Americans felt in the 19th century during the increasing rate of European immigration into the United States. The Native American party was founded in 1841 and adhered to the belief that foreigners were a detriment to the American existence.
Party members believed that foreigners should not be allowed to hold any office of public trust in the government, whether federal, state, or local. In 1854, the party adopted the policy that even United States citizenship should be granted only after an emigrant had lived in this country for 21 years -- thus the symbolism on the flag.

Day one, grossing $851,970 and selling 396 out of 515 lots, held the biggest surprise of the two-day sale when the Louis Lumiere Cinematograph hit the auction block. After attracting national and international attention, the item garnered $30,000, more than quadrupling its presale estimate of $4/6,000.

Auguste and Louis Lumiere are credited with the world's first public film screening on December 28, 1895. The showing of approximately ten short films lasting only twenty minutes in total was held in the basement lounge of the Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris and was the very first public demonstration of their device that they called the Cinematograph, which effectively functioned as camera, projector and printer all in one.

In addition to moving pictures, photographs were big sellers at the December 4, 2008 event. Scottish photographer Alexander Gardner's group of 32 stereoviews of the Fort Laramie Treaty fetched $36,425. These photographs are exceptionally rare because Gardner was the only photographer on the scene to record the events of this important treaty between Washington and representatives of the Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, Crow and the Brule, Oglala and Miniconjou Dakota.

Gardner's rare Mammoth Plate of Abraham Lincoln also hit the auction block selling for $34,662.50, more than doubling its presale estimate of $10/15,000. The item is one of three top-selling Lincoln items to be featured in the sale. The other two include an Abraham Lincoln letter to Secretary of War Stanton on January 9, 1863, which garnered $21,150 and a dinner plate from the first Lincoln White House service with John Hay Provenance that sold for $14,100.

Other top-selling photographs include a pair of hand-colored tintypes of Western Great Lakes Indians that sold for $15,275. An enormous archive of Powell Survey stereoviews fetched $16,450. This lot of 210 oversized yellow mounts depicts the Grand Canyon and its geological formations. Powell's survey of the Grand Canyon remains one of the great feats of 19th century exploration. Two volumes of hand-tinted photographs of Uniforms of Enlisted Men of the U.S. Army also grabbed bidders' attention and sold for $23,500.

Day two of the auction had all eyes on Natural History of New York, Part I, which sold for $3,055, well beyond the estimated price of $2/400. The moderately priced items of day two garnered a total of $134,608 and sold 598 of 856 lots.

"Although this certainly wasn't our highest grossing sale, I was pleased that once again bidders responded positively to some of the exceptional historical rarities we offered," said Wes Cowan, owner of Cowan's Auctions and star of the PBS TV series History Detectives.

The next Historic Americana, Including the Civil War and the American West sale is slotted for June 3, 2009. For further information, please contact Wes Cowan at (513) 871-1670 or

Image placeholder title

37" x 50". Manufactured with textiles of a silk/wool blend.
Stars in canton pattern entirely hand-embroidered with silk thread.
Stars graduated from outside to in, with the same pattern on both
sides of the canton. Linen hoist with two eyelets whip-stitched
around a metal grommet. Entirely hand-sewn. Price Realized: $8,812.50

Image placeholder title

MEN OF THE U.S. ARMY, both 13.5 x 11.5", containing 45 exquisitely
hand-tinted 6 x 8" albumen photographs, each mounted to heavy
cream-colored cardstock with gilt edges. Each image captioned
in inked manuscript hand. These images document the uniforms of the
various branches of the United States Army -- Infantry, Artillery,
and Cavalry. Price Realized: $23,500.00

Image placeholder title

STONEWALL JACKSON & R.S. EWELL, 1862, 1p, 4.75 x 7.25",
n.p., 24 July 1862. “General, Please let Mr. J. S. Barbour select a couple
of men from your command for the purpose of procuring information
beyond our lines. Respectfully yours, T. J. Jackson, Maj. Gen." and
addressed in lower left Maj. Genl. R. S. Ewell. Verso has two pencil dockets:
"Mr. Barbour wishes to confer with two men from the 13th Va,
he is referred to Genl. Early. July 24, '62, R. L. Ewell and Genl.
Early will please detail the men if Mr. Barbour find[s] them [to] his
wishes. POl(?)”. Price Realized: $9,987.50

Image placeholder title

1pp, 5 x 8", Washington: 9 January 1863, Executive Mansion
printed stationery. In full: "It is said that William S. Pryor,
of New-Castle, Henry Co. Ky. and J. O'Hara, of Covington, Ky.
were imprisoned for a while, at Camp Chase, and are now at
Cincinnati, on parole, without permission to leave the State of Ohio.
Let their parole stand, but allow them to go at large generally.
When you shall have done this, notify me of it. Yours truly, A. Lincoln."
Below in left margin, “Will execute the foregoing order. E M Stanton.
Included is a Library of Congress copy of a memorandum in their
collection, also dated 9 Jan. on Executive Mansion stationery:
"Today Mr. Senator Powell calls and demands the unconditional
release William S. Pryor, of New Castle, Henry Co. Ky, J. O'Hara, of
Covington, Ky, who have been imprisoned at Camp Chase &
are now on parole at Cincinnati, not allowed to go to Kentucky
- Col. Thomas L. Jones has a similar case except he has the
previleges [sic] of Newport.” Price Realized: $21,150.00

Frontline Feature


Be Our Frontline Feature Sponsor

Get your company or auction front and center with our Frontline Feature. Click here to learn more.