Who wore a red tie on March 11, 1875, when the president sat down to dinner?
The short answer: “We don’t really know how to answer that,” says Robert Ehrlich, a historian who co-directs the Presidential Flappers Museum (www.trump.com) in New York City. “It was all speculation.”
Fashions had been evolving since the Civil War, says Ehrlich. Women had taken an interest in the gown that gave birth to the modern American flag, which had become a source of pride for women as they fought for the right to vote. These days, women of every race and ethnicity use red ties as a symbol of independence and resistance to oppression. In other words, they are proud of having been born a Republican.
At the time the U.S. flag flew at half-staff, there were nearly 3,500 Republican women in the U.S. Congress. And the political party adopted the red tie as their own in 1877 as a nod to their role in electing the first African American in the Oval Office – Thomas Dewey.
“We believe that the red tie symbolizes a woman’s strength,” says Ehrlich — in a woman who doesn’t wear hats and dresses in formal attire, but can dress to take command of a room.
Dewey’s red tie reflected the spirit of America’s new progressive era, a time when women gained rights and began to have their voices heard.
The color of the tie, Ehrlich says, “had a big influence on the symbolism.”
In Washington, D.C., this is where the tie was first worn. For the first time, on March 11, 1875, the American flag was suspended from the flag pole of the capital. That same day, Republican delegates joined Democratic senators in a mass-call-to-arms to protest the War of 1812. While many saw their cause in defense of the Declaration of Independence, some saw it as a fight for emancipation. Red was seen as the color of emancipation.
“But as we look back on it,” Ehrlich says, “I think the red tie was meant so we would understand what our new president was about.”
Erich says the red tie came to represent courage and a person’s commitment to the Constitution. The black tie also emerged as a symbol of racial and ethnic pride. It was used at the Ku Klux Klan rallies against Black Power members
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