<Go back to the Topics Index results>

Complete Explanation:
A large, illustrated membership certificate for the Order of United Americans, a nativist secret society founded in New York City in December 1844. Originally called the American Brotherhood, the organization changed its name in January 1845 to the Order of United Americans. It was founded to "oppose foreign influence in [American] institutions or government." By 1847 the order claimed a membership of two thousand.

Parsons's certificate has a large central vignette showing the female goddess Liberty on a pedestal surrounded by several men wearing the society's sashes. Liberty wears a crown of stars and holds a garland of flowers and a staff with Phrygian cap. In the sky just above her head is an open eye, symbol of vigilance, and a crescent of stars. On the base of her pedestal are an oval portrait of George Washington and the nativist motto "Beware of Foreign Influence."

Crowding around the pedestal are are seamen, soldiers, and civilians who embrace each other, clasping hands and holding American flags. Just beyond the pedestal the ground drops off, giving way to a view of a great waterfall, probably Niagara. Two Indians are also visible in the distance.

The central vignette is surrounded by an elaborate rococo frame with several smaller vignettes. At left a sick man is visited by two men--seemingly an example of the United Americans' philanthropic activity. On the right a woman kneels before a tomb or monument. In the lower left is a view of the Bunker Hill Monument with the word "Patriotism" below; on the lower right are the personifications of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Below, in the center, is a scene after John Trumbull's painting "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence. "At the top of the frame is an eagle with a shield, several ears of corn, and a cornucopia, with the words "E Pluribus Unum."

Surrounding the area of the inscription are seals of the thirteen original states, with New York in the center below. Also visible is the seal of the "Chancery of the U[nited] A[mericans] New York" which features a hand grasping a serpent. The frame is draped in bunting, and also displays the names of several Revolutionary War battles.

Website design © 2010 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2010 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com