Internet Obverse
Internet Obverse

Internet Obverse




Patriotic Textile "Apotheosis of Franklin", 1785.

Sub-collection: U.S. Political

English Patriotic Textile "Apotheosis of Franklin", Early Washington Image, 1785 - 1790.
This cotton warp and linen filling textile was produced in England as yard good shortly after the American Revolution. Intended for the American market, this printed toile fabric was very popular and was used by American homemakers to make bed curtains, wall coverings, curtains, and other home furnishings.

Early in the 17th century, Britain began importing hand-painted cottons from India, whose fabrics were more easily cleaned than the silks and velvets customarily used for interior furnishing. Near the end of the century, several European countries started embellishing this Indian cotton by printing with wood blocks, instead of hand-painting them. This technique proved more economical. By the mid-18th century copper plates had replaced wooden blocks, which permitted finer details and a larger printing area. Copper plates enabled as much as one square yard to be printed in one pressing, while wood blocks areas were less than one square foot, had smaller motif patterns and did not last as long.

The Industrial Revolution saw an increase in cotton textiles production, replacing South Asia's cottage industry. Cotton goods became Britain's central export by the starting in the late 18th century, and she exported huge quantities of printed cloth to America. After American independence, the patterns were targeting the New World market with American motifs and themes. The "Apotheosis of Franklin" is from this era, and would have adorned a window, or served as bed a curtain or furniture upholstery.

This textile is a memorial vignette to Benjamin Franklin from after the Revolution and is printed on fine fabric with a cotton warp and linen fill. It is imprinted in a, brownish-red, showing General George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, both icons of the American Revolution. Washington is depicted is a Continental uniform while Franklin is resplendent in his signature beaver cap. This textile was created in 1790 to memorialize Benjamin Franklin. Franklin grasps one end of a banner, stating "Where Liberty Dwells, There is My Country." This fabric is considered a classic of early Americana, and is well-documented, in the Smithsonian's "Threads of History" by Collins.

The rendition of Washington is clearly inspired by Trumbull's 1780 portrait. The engraver has added a hat, and seated Washington in a chariot alongside a female personification of America, who bears the symbol of commerce, the caduceus, in one arm and in the other a tablet commemorating American Independence, 1776. Two leopards draw a phaeton, accompanied by two young Native Americans Indians; one carrying an American flag of thirteen alternating horizontal stripes and the other a flag bearing a rattlesnake of 13 segments and inscribed, "Unite or Die," a phrase attributed to Franklin in the 1750s. There are 13 stars on the shield above, representing the 13 original states and former colonies. To the left of the phaeton the Liberty Tree bears an inverted and tattered broadside reading, "Stamp Act," a cause belli, of the American Revolution.

Another factor, which makes this particularly important, is the George Washington representation, in uniform, driving a phaeton carriage, which could have been scrutinized by Washington himself, as it was made during his lifetime. Textiles featuring Washington, which date to the time of Washington's lifespan, are very rare.

• Sold via Cowan's Auction, Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Zaricor Flag Collection, 2009.

ZFC Significant Flag


Collins, Herbert Ridgeway, Threads of History, City of Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.

Goody, Rabbit, Report on a Piece of Printed Fabric, 2010, Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.

Early Textile Printing in Britain, Selections from the C. W. McAlpin Collection, New York Public Library, 19 November 2011, from:

Lot 160, Apotheosis of Franklin Textile, 1790 , Live Auctioneers, 19 November 2011, from:

1790 "The Apotheosis of Franklin",Heritage Auctions, 21 November 2011, from:

Benjamin Franklin with George Washington Memorial Historic Textile, "The Apotheosis of Franklin" , Stacks, 19 November 2011, from:

Image Credits:
Zaricor Flag Collection

Hoist & Fly

Width of Hoist 20
Length of Fly 30


Size of Hoist 0


Is it framed? no


Are there stars on obverse? no
Are there stars on reverse? no


Number of Stripes 13
Has a Blood Stripe? no
Comments on Stripes Stripes are printed on the flag illustrated on the textile.


Description of Crest/Emblem Washington in a carriage in triumph.


Nation Represented United States


Fabric Cotton
Comments on Fabric cotton and linen.


Thread Material Cotton


Comments on Method of Attachmen The textile has evidence of a 3/8" seam on the selvedge side.


Applique Sides Single Faced = Mirror Image Reverse

PDF Files
ZFC3259 - Threads of History


Threads of History, P.51

Threads of History, P.51

All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.
Research Documents
All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.
Public Copy & Signs
All original documents and drawings are held in the Zaricor Flag Collection Archives.


Condition Good
Damage The textile is soiled.
Displayable yes


Date 1785