Tree of Liberty.
1849 (undated) 28 x 21 in (71.12 x 53.34 cm)
A wonderful bit of broadside American, this is a c. 1849 Edward Hooker Ensign and Horace Thayer illustration of the 'Tree of Liberty.' The tree, which grows from roots surrounded by hard working Americans, consists of medallions for each state along with statistical information regarding that state. At top center, is the obverse and reverse of the Great Seal of the United States of America. On the bottom left there is a historical illustration of the landing of Columbus at San Salvador on October 12, 1492. On the bottom right another illustration details the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, December 22nd, 1620.
The expression 'Tree of Liberty' harkens to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to William S. Smith, a diplomatic official in London, on November 13, 1787. The full quote reads,
What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure…
The letter concerned Daniel Shays' 1786-1787 rebellion in Massachusetts. While Jefferson did not support the underlying causes of the Shays Rebellion, he did support the rebellion itself as a proper expression of men's natural rights to overthrow an unjust system. The letter is a window into just how fiery Jefferson's own political thinking had become. In modern times, the 'Tree of Liberty' has taken on darker meanings and is often associated with terrorist and political fringe groups. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with a bloody 'Tree of Liberty' in 1995 and William Kostric carried a sign reading 'Time to water the tree of liberty' when he carried a Semi-Automatic handgun to President Obama's Portsmouth, New Hampshire Town Hall Meeting.
The broadside is undated but the latest historical information evident is the May 30, 1848 ratification of the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo by Mexico – thus formally ceding New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado to the United States. We are able to further refund the date to 1849 based upon the imprint, 'Ensign, Thayer, and Co.' which was only used in that year.
This broadside is uncommon with one 2 mentions in the OCLC, one at Princeton and another at the New York Historical Society.
Edward Hooker Ensign (August 18, 1818 - July 10, 1871) was an American map and print publisher based in New York during the middle part of the 19th century. Edward was born in West Hartland, Connecticut. Little is known of Ensign's training but he may have inherited his business from his father, Timothy Ensign, who was a map publisher active in New York. Ensign seems to have had a flair for partnerships and variously published with Humphrey Phelps, Horace Thayer, Thomas Fanning and Erastus Bridgeman, among others. His various imprints include 'Phelps and Ensign' (1841-1844), 'T. and E. H. Ensign' (1844-1848), 'Ensign and Thayer' (1849), 'Ensign, Thayer, and Company' (1850-1851), 'Horace Thayer and Company' (1852), and 'Ensign, Bridgman and Fanning' (1854-1863). It appears that father and son worked together for some time as well, publishing as either 'T. and E. H. Ensign' or 'Ensigns'. At least some of these companies maintained offices in both Buffalo and New York City.
Horace Thayer (1811 - c. 1874) was a New York based publisher and lithographer active in New York City and Buffalo, New York, during the middle part of the 19th century. Thayer's publications focused on travel guides, wall, and pocket maps - many of which were based on the works of other American cartographers including J. H. Colton and S. A. Mitchell. According to map historian Walter Ristow, J. H. Colton's older son, George Washington Colton, partnered with Thayer in the late 1850s and early 1860s, possibly in order to learn Thayer's lithography techniques. Certainly a number maps emerged bearing a "Thayer and Colton" imprint. At various points Thayer also published with other prominent publishers and printmakers, publishing as Kelloggs and Thayer (1846-1847), Ensigns and Thayer (1848), Ensign and Thayer (1849-1850), and Ensign, Thayer, and Company (1850-1851), Phelps and Watson (1859), and Thayer and Colton (1859-186?). Thayer seems to have moved frequently and had offices at 50 Ann Street, 156 William Street, and at 18 Beekman Street, all in New York City.
Good. Even overall toning. A few repaired tears to margins. Backed on archival tissue. Light soiling.