Based on “data furnished by the researches of E.W. Tuffley, Esq., Northampton, England,” the central portion of the print traces Washington’s genealogy back six generations to the reign of Henry VIII. Above and below are two illustrations of brass memorial plaques of Washington’s British forbears. To the left and right are illustrations of the family shield from about 1540 and “The Washington Arms & Crest from Herald’s College, London,” with a design of a white chevron with two horizontal red stripes and three five-pointed red stars, surmounted by “a raven with wings…issuing out of a ducal coronet.” Smaller illustrations show similar designs appearing on Washington’s seals, coach and book plate. In the lower left and right corners are pictures of the front and back of a Washington eagle cent dated 1791.
Between the coins, a paragraph at the bottom explains that when Washington asked Betsy Ross to create a national flag, “she adopted and adapted his own ‘stars and stripes.'” It further asserts: “That George Washington’s coat of arms and crest furnished the original idea for the stars and stripes and spread eagle, our national emblems, and that these were the heraldic insignia of the old English ancestry, which is traced back to a time that was contemporaneous with Columbus, are facts hitherto virtually unknown.”
The entire design is bordered by a trompe-l’oeil depiction of a gilt frame, cracked and peeling with age. It is decorated upper and lower center with two small images of a bald eagle with outstretched wings, feeding its chicks. The upper illustration is trompe l’oeil, the lower one has been cut and pasted there from another print. Apparently this print was originally printed by Root & Tinker as a promotion for the New York Life Insurance Company and there are versions that incorporate information about the company. In all likelihood, the collaged illustration on the version shown here was pasted over that information so that the print could be sold or distributed by other vendors or companies. Root & Tinker often produced promotional broadsides such as this one and we have seen other examples of their work with pastedown labels over company names.
To accompany this plate, the publishers, Root & Tinker, simultaneously issued a 12-page pamphlet, Origin of the Stars and Stripes together with An Accurate Account of The Washington Genealogy, written by Edward W. Tuffley, in which he details his reasoning, his conclusions, and how he went about his research, including his discovery of the Washington cent depicted on the print. The original 1883 pamphlet has been scanned and reproduced online (see References below).
The publisher, Root & Tinker, produced general interest subjects that could be imprinted with company names to be used as advertising promotions. Read more about the firm here.
Full publication information: “Copyright 1883 Root & Tinker. From data furnished by the researches of E.W. Tuffley, Esq. Northampton, England. Buek & Lindner, 65 Warren St. N.Y.”
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, and soft creases. Some abrasions and wear in margins from former matting, can be rematted out. Professionally cleaned, deacidified, and laid on supporting Japanese paper. Eagle decoration lower center is pasted down, as issued, probably over an advertisement for The New York Life Insurance Company.
Tuffley, Edward W. Origin of the Stars and Stripes, together with An Accurate Account of The Washington Genealogy. New York: Root & Tinker, 1883. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=ALAfAQAAMAAJ (5 March 2013).