The Accolade


This print, by David Orrin Steinberger, dated January 1898, was originally a large ink drawing that the artist donated to the American Red Cross to be reproduced and sold for $1.00 each for the relief of Cuban insurrectionistas and recontrados. Clara Burton, the founder of the American Red Cross, had been in Cuba with several assistants giving aid to those imprisoned insurrectionists and their supporters who had been herded into concentration camps in and around Havana, by order of the former Spanish Governor General Wyler. Clara Barton had dined aboard the USS Maine just 2 days before the ship exploded, killing 266 crewmen on February 15th, 1898. On April 22, Cuba was blockaded by the US, and on the 23rd, Spain declared war on the US., and on the 25th, the US declared war on Spain, retroactive to the 22nd. It is not known where the original of this print is, how many copies of them were sold or how many of them still exist.


From across the room, the print appears to be a large heart. Closer inspection reveals a very complex picture of "Columbia", the spiritual embodiment of the United States, embracing a woman identified as Cuba. The title, The Accolade, is an archaic term meaning to embrace, to confirm knighthood. Columbia appears also to be trying to revive Cuba, who, with an arrow through her heart, is very seriously wounded. This is an allegorical picture with many symbolic images: Columbia's slight wound to the wrist, the Statue of Liberty with the doves of peace and the owls of darkness, the Great White Fleet with searchlights piercing the fogbank, perhaps shrouding a rocky shoal, the cast aside shackles and the skull key, Columbia's broken shackle with the $ sign and the skull in the whirlpool make this an intriguing and provocative print.


D. Orrin Steinberger was born March 25, 1857 and died December 12, 1945. He studied at the National Academy of design and Art League schools and was an instructor in art at the Wittenberg College. He was an illustrator for a number of magazines and periodicals. He was mentored by the famous sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward. Shortly after completing this picture, he became a correspondent for the New York "Literary Digest" during the Spanish-American War. In 1900, he went to Colorado Springs, seeking a cure for tuberculosis that he had contracted shortly after finishing this picture. Told there was no cure, he went home to Urbana, Ohio and convinced several friends to help him build a tree house 40 feet from the ground, in a large tree on his fathers farm. He lived there for most of the rest of his life, naming it "Camp-a-loft" and he became known as the "Hermit of Mad River".


Noah Davis, former judge of the New York Supreme Court said, Your undertaking to raise a million dollars for the work of the Red Cross is a godlike charity. Every purchaser of The Accolade will get more than the money value he pays in the picture itself, and will have the joy of knowing that his dollar is wholly a contribution to the truest christian charity not known to the world. The Accolade is the name of the kiss that was given as the final ceremony in the bestowment of knighthood upon the worthy heroes of the age of chivalry. It was a token of love for the noble deeds done in the cause of virtue. It is well then, that in this hour of her awful agony, America should clasp to her bosom the wretched and unhappy Cuba and vie to her The Accolade - the kiss of charity and love - and the token of hope for peace and happiness, bestowed by a mighty people in the name of God and Liberty.