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1890 - 1893 Presbyterian Ladies Society Autograph Banner

1890 - 1893 Presbyterian Ladies Society Autograph Banner

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This banner is one of two made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Ladies Society of the First Presbyterian Church, New York City, as a fundraising project. The donor, Emilie Noakes Manley, referred to them as “Autograph Quilts” as they contain many signatures of prominent political personages of the period.
The banners belonged to her husband’s grandmother, Margaret Clarke Goodall Bradley, and were donated in her memory. According to family information, this banner was raffled as a fund raiser, possibly for an 1893 addition to the church by the firm McKim, Mead & White. Although Margaret Bradley did not win the raffle, the banner was presented to her because of “her efforts for the projects.”
This banner has a black satin ground with an appliquéd American flag made of red and white satin with a blue and white printed field of stars. Inked signatures of Benjamin Harrison (president 1889-1893) and his cabinet are on the flag. Near the flag are the embroidered words, "Liberty Union E pluribus Unum." In the center of the banner is an appliquéd blue circle embroidered with white stars surrounded by 44 red and white rays representing the number of states in the early 1890s. The rays are embroidered, following the lines of the original signatures, with the names of state governors, including those of Idaho and Wyoming both of which joined the Union in 1890.
The patriotic center is enhanced with appliquéd and embroidered flags of 48 nations. The embroidered insignia of 86 G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) posts or units are on a 10-inch black satin border. Between two of the G.A.R. insignia is an embroidered Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, and the inscription “BROOKLYN BRIDGE.” Across the top are 42 thin metal rings, an indication that it was meant to be hung. It is lined with light blue-green silk.
The Grand Army of the Republic was founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson. Membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, or Marine Corps who had served between April 12, 1861, and April 9, 1865. Its peak membership was at more than 400,000 in 1890, about the time this banner was made. It lobbied Congress to establish veterans' pensions, supported voting rights for black veterans, and supported Republican political candidates. The organization ended in 1956 with the death of the last member to have served in the Civil War.
The donor recalled in a letter that she remembered hearing that the banner was “a money-making project, and all the ladies of the church participated in the assembling of the ‘Autograph-Swatches’ and the stitching and embroidery. The signatures on the flags were probably members and friends of the congregation (and possibly charged a small fee for the privilege) and when the quilts were completed they were raffled off.”
Margaret J. Clarke was born December 1858 to John and Matilda McKinney Clarke in New York City. Her parents were born in Ireland. She married Edward F. Goodall on September 18, 1877. He was killed by a train in 1880 and she married Samuel Bradley on February 25, 1885. She died November 21, 1929, in New York.
Margaret's daughter Louise, from her first marriage, married John Gordon Noakes. Their son, Donald Gordon Noakes, married Emilie, the donor. He died in 1948 and Emilie later married John Manley. In 1979 she gave the quilts to the National Museum in honor of the family and Margaret Clarke Goodall Bradley. Another granddaughter, Marjorie Blampied, wrote that the quilts “... most certainly are where they belong... where they will be treasured and appreciated.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
fabric, satin, silk (overall material)
thread, silk, cotton (overall material)
overall: 107 in x 107 in; 271 cm x 272 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Emilie Noakes Manley
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Cultures & Communities
Government, Politics, and Reform
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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