|13 star American national flag, entirely hand-sewn by Sarah M. Wilson, great-granddaughter of Betsy Ross. The stripes are constructed of silk ribbon carefully pieced with tiny stitches and a degree of precision seldom seen on American textiles. The five-pointed stars are executed with lineal lines like a spokes on a carriage wheel or the rowel of a spur. These are constructed of silk floss on a canton made of blue silk taffeta, and there is a hand-sewn cotton binding along the hoist.
Beginning around 1898, Rachel Wilson Albright, Betsy's granddaughter, began producing flags exactly like this one in the East Wing of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. She sold them to tourists and probably sometimes gifted them to individuals who made donations to the American Flag House and Betsy Ross Memorial Association. Rachel was elderly and sometime around 1902, as her health began to fail, she was joined by Sarah and the two women operated their tiny cottage industry until 1905, when Rachel relocated to Fort Madison, Iowa. She passed in 1907. Sarah continued in the trade until around 1913.
The Albright and Wilson flags are extraordinary because of their tiny size and silk, hand-sewn construction. They are extremely easy to identify because their characteristics are so distinctive. There is nothing else like them made during this period. That having been said, they were individually made and do exhibit a small degree of personalized variation. The sleeves or hoist bindings vary in width and some have tiny, hand-sewn grommets.
The flag typically either came with a note or a signature along the hoist (sleeve). This particular flag is signed along both sides of the hoist. On the obverse (front) it reads:
"Made by Sarah M. Wilson, Great grand daughter of Betsy Ross"
And on the reverse continues:
"East Wing of Independence Hall Philadelphia April 4th 1911."
Rachael and Sarah proudly proclaimed that this is what the original flag looked like, with a perfect wreath of 13 stars, but no hard evidence exists to substantiate it. In fact, no one knows precisely what the star configuration was on the first flag, but it is unlikely that it had a perfect circle of stars. Of the very few Colonial examples that survive, none are in this pattern. Further, while there are thousands of 13 star flags that still exist today that were made during the 19th century for all manner of patriotic purpose, only one single flag made prior to the 1890�s seems to have survived with a �Betsy Ross�, perfect circle pattern. The Albright and Wilson flags are among the very first to be produced in this design and are probably responsible for the fact that this pattern is now so popularly connected with the Betsy Ross name. In other words, flags made in this pattern made afterwards were probably copied from the Ross Granddaughter flags.
One of these small flags appears on the Betsy Ross House website (http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/house/room9.html). A signed example is picture in �The Stars and the Stripes� by Mastai, 1973, p. 228. Albright and Wilson appear to have stopped making flags of this kind sometime around 1912-1915.
Mounting: The gilded, American molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1860. This is a pressure mount between 100% cotton and U.V. protective acrylic. The black fabric has been washed to reduce 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. |
Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
||Phone: (717) 502-1281
||1st Half 20th Century (1901 -1949)|
||There are a number of vertical splits in the canton, including separation along the hoist. Much of the silk used in the making of American flags during the period between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century was weighted with mineral salts, which resulted in splitting and breakdown of this nature. There is minor staining in the stripe field. The colors are exceptionally strong.|
||Frame: 13.5" x 17.75" Flag: 5.75" x 10"
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