|13 star American national flag with some beautifully graphic features in its especially bold stars that have a large, bulging profile. This is a probably a U.S. Navy small boat ensign, made in the period during Reconstruction of the South (1865-1876). This was an era of scarce military production, but a small handful of examples are known that share this flag's uncommon construction elements.
The flag�s cotton stars are appliqu�d to the obverse of the canton with a treadle machine, but the under-hemming of the single-appliqu� work on the reverse was accomplished by hand. The stripes and stars are made of wool bunting, joined by treadle-stitching. There is a treadle-sewn sleeve along the hoist, made of fine cotton, through which braided cotton twine was threaded and stitched into place, with loops at the top and bottom so that it could be affixed to a rope for hoisting.
Small boat ensigns were flown at the stern, from a gaff, or from the yard-arm on a larger vessel, or as the primary flag on a skiff or other small craft that carried sailors back and forth to shore.
The 4-5-4 lineal configuration is both scarcer and more appealing than rows of stars in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, and is generally seen on flags made during the Civil War period and prior. On rare occasion it can be seen on flags like this one, made just following the war. For some reason the 4-5-4 pattern was not popular during the celebration of our nation�s 100-year anniversary of independence in 1876, or thereafter, so it is both desired and more interesting than some other 13 star designs. It is sometimes seen in the 1890�s on small-scale 13 star flags produced by commercial makers, but these are scarce. There was no official star pattern for the 13 star flag set forth in the flag act of June 14th, 1777, and because the original does not survive, nor are descriptions of it recorded in public documents or private journals, no one actually knows what the very first one looked like. Due to its apparent popularity in early America, however, as evidenced by both drawings and surviving 19th century examples, more than one flag expert has hedged that lineal rows of 4-5-4 was probably the original configuration.
Adding considerably to the appeal of this flag is its relatively small size when compared to others made during the 19th century. In modern times, this flag would be considered quite large, but prior to the 1890�s however, it is small when compared to its counterparts with sewn construction. Printed parade flags (sometimes called hand-wavers) were generally three feet long or smaller, but flags with sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, while today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. In the 19th century, even those flags made for decorative purpose were often large by today�s standards, so the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting. This is why many collectors prefer printed parade flags and smaller sewn flags, like this one.
13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation�s history for a variety of purposes. The U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats, not only in the 18th century, but throughout much or all of the 19th century, particularly the second half. Ship captains were paranoid about the ability of foreign ships to recognize the flag on the open seas.
On small flags in particular, viewed through a spyglass at a distance, the ability discern individual stars was of great concern. Keeping the count at 13 maintained better visibility and consistency. The practice theoretically ended in 1916 following an executive order from then-President Woodrow Wilson, though old military traditions die hard and according to at least one expert, Wilson�s order did not completely dispel the presence of 13 star flags on U.S. Navy craft.
Some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy, and the use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding an anchor, which began in 1848, still persists today. Among other uses, 13 star flags were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars and displayed at various patriotic events, including Lafayette�s final visit to the U.S. in 1825-26, the celebration of the Nation's centennial of independence in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926.
Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to remove excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye, and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic. |
Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
||Phone: (717) 502-1281
||19th Century (1801-1900)|
||There is an especially minor amount of foxing and staining and there is minor mothing, but there are no serious condition issues. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age.|
||Frame: 58.75" x 80.75" Flag: 47.5" x 69.75"
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