CDV of the banner of the 3rd United States Colored Troops designed by David Bustill Bowser. David Bustill Bowser: Philadelphia, n.d., circa 1865. This example bears Bowser’s mark on the verso: “D.B. Bowser / Artist / No. 481 North 4th St. / Philadelphia.” Serving as a kind of business card, one of the earliest examples from an African American artist.
Verso with pencil inscription: "Compliments of / Robert C. Carson." The pictured banner, used as a battle flag, shows an African American soldier and the (white) personification of the Republic grasping fasces. Both figures hold on to an American flag in front of a soldier’s camp, surrounded by laurel leaves and the motto, “Rather Die Freemen, Than Live to be Slaves” and “3rd United States Colored Troops.”
The battle flag captured here was designed by African American artist David Bustill Bowser (1820-1900). From a prominent and well-respected family, Bowser was well regarded for his civic engagement and philanthropy, especially involved in the abolitionist movement. He spent much of his career designing and painting banners and regalia for all manner of organizations and was the natural choice to design the battle flags for several of the regiments of African American soldiers that were formed in 1863. The 3rd USCT was mustered into service on August 10, 1863, and training at Camp William Penn when this banner was created. The inspiring motto at the top of the banner is taken from dynamic abolitionist and Presbyterian pastor Henry Highland Garnet’s “Call to Rebellion” speech at the 1843 National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York.
Mount verso is toned with fading to imprint.
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