Parade torch, 1880. Glass, metal, cloth. A & W Mfg. Co., Chicago, with Jan. 27, 1880 patent date. Upper and lower metal plates joined by four posts, enclosing a glass oil receptacle in the form of a globe; wick tube rises from upper portion of globe and extends above upper plate. Posts are painted red and blue. Illustrated in Collins, "Political Campaign Torches" (Paper 45, U.S. National Museum Bulletin 241, Smithsonian Institution, 1964). Collins writes: "This most appropriate torch was devised in 1880 for use in tortchlight processions...representing a globe ballot box."
Torchlight parades, once a mainstay of political campaigns in America, reached their peak about 1880. While most torches are of generic design, some are highly distinctive and can be firmly associated with a specific election, the "ballot box" torch being one of the most recognizable. A classic of 19th century political accoutrements, this is the best example we've encountered, retaining much of the original paint and even the original wick!