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Letters to the Editor

American Eagle Drapery Decoration

December 2, 2020

Dear Rail Splitter,

I am seeking help regarding a relic I obtained. This piece, what I call the American Eagle Drapery Decoration, has dimensions as follows: the wingspan is 12″ from tip to tip. From the top of the head to the bottom of the shield is 9″. The branch is 9 1/2″ from end to end. The shield is approximately 3″ wide and 4″ center length. The letter I received from the dealer when I purchased the eagle reads as follows: “The embroidery which you purchased was salvaged from the draperies in the Executive Office at the White House during President Lincoln’s term. The work is all hand made. It was purchased in Washington, D.C. by Mr. John Kenney of Charlotte. In some of the old portraits of Lincoln you will find embroidery like this on the draperies in the background.” Unfortunately, the antique dealer has since died of cancer so this trail ends there. This was in October of 1977. Sometime in 1978 or 1979, an elderly gentleman had a traveling Lincoln exhibit and was at a shopping mall in Concord, NC, just a few miles from Charlotte. I went to the mall to see it and I  told him about the eagle. He asked if he could see the eagle so I went home, got it and went back to the mall. Upon seeing the eagle and looking at it carefully, he said that he felt he was correct and it appeared to be a drapery decoration from the Lincoln White House. He said he had seen a photograph of Lincoln, made in the White House, and the eagles could be seen on the drapes in the background. He said he thought there could only be maybe 12 or so of the eagles and mine was the first one he had seen in real life. He also told me (and I later learned for myself that during those times, people would just walk into the White House when one President’s term was over and another was about to take over, and take all kinds of things as souvenirs. He was so sure the eagle was what he said it was that he offered me $500 on the spot for it. I told him it was not for sale and he said to please let him know if I ever did decide to sell it. Needless to say, I have long since lost his name and address. At that time, he was probably in his late 60s or 70s. A little later I had the eagle professionally framed and it has been hanging in my home since then. A few years ago I had some textile experts look at it and they also said it was indeed made by hand by a very talented person and made in the 1840s to 1860s. That is all the information I have about the eagle. Any information you can give me is greatly appreciated.

Ray Greene

Charlotte, NC