Japanese American Market Eagle & Flag
Late 19th Century
A fine example of these Japanese silks made for American sailors in Japan made around the time of the Spanish-American War. The silk depicts an American eagle with a glass eye and the American flag and shield.
Japanese silkwork pictures were made for the American market from about 1885 through 1910. During the Spanish-American War, American ships were stationed in Nagasaki. These silks were also sold at the Japanese Pavilion at the St Louis World Fair in 1904. This silkwork with such a nautical theme depicted was almost certainly purchased by one of the many American sailors who passed through Japan.
From December 1907 to February 1909, 16 battleships and 14,000 men of the US Navy steamed around the world on a mission of "Gunboat Diplomacy." The ships, commonly known as the "Great White Fleet" because of their white-painted hulls, called in ports the world over, impressing foreign dignitaries with the appearance of great power.
The ships were stationed for a time in Nagasaki. As Japanese and other Eastern influences in art were very popular, many men purchased the vibrant silks for souvenirs and mementos. Some of the ones with the strongest colour were seemingly not displayed at all, as there are no photographs in them and the condition suggests that they never made it out of the seaman's trunk until years later.