|The �Grand Union� is the most commonly used name today for the first national flag of the United States. This was the design that was in use when America was still a colony of Britain. Like other outposts of the British Empire, this flag employs the Union Jack image in the canton, accompanied by a field that somehow reflects the respective colony; in this case, 13 red and white stripes.
The Grand Union went by many names. 19th century flag historians seem to have preferred the term �Continental Grand Union�, but this language is not found in 18th century documents or literature. In the period, it was simply referred to as the �Continental� or �Union� flag (or colors). The first record of its use as a national ensign appears to be in an illustration of Philadelphia from the Delaware River by George Heap, which was published by British engraver G. Vandergucht in 1754. The image showed a heavily gunned ship flying a large Grand Union off the stern, with 9 instead of 13 stripes, accompanied by a small Union Jack flown off the bow and what appears to be a British commissioning pennant at the top mast. While the British East Indies Company used an almost identical flag as its commercial ensign during the same century, the ship in Heap�s view on Philadelphia is clearly a Naval gun ship. It seems likely that an American-based, British Naval vessel may have flown the design as the national colors.*
Because the Stars & Stripes wasn�t officially created until the Flag Act was passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14th, 1777, the Grand Union was still in use during the opening years of the Revolutionary War (1775-1777). If Washington carried a national flag on the battlefield or hung one from his quarters, this would have been it. In fact, he stated in a letter that he raised the �Union flag� for the first time on January 1st, 1776, to honor the newly formed Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts. John Paul Jones had hoisted one over the ship �Alfred� December 3rd, 1775, and a host of other illustrations show the flag in use on Continental ships during the war�s opening years. Such a flag is also shown on land in places such as Fort Schuyler, New York.
Despite the importance of this flag in American history, few people now recognize the design. One reason might be found in the simple fact that the design was hardly popular after the Stars & Stripes emerged and the war gained momentum. Ties to England were severed and reminders of British rule were shunned. Because of these facts, the Grand Union never became popular to reproduce and all examples made prior to 1950 are rare. In fact, scarce few are seen at the 1976 Bicentennial.
This particular flag is a small, homemade example. Based upon a combination of construction, comparison to other flags of the period and a logic assumption of use, it was probably produced for the 1926 sesquicentennial of American independence in 1926. The flag is made entirely of cotton. The Union device and the stripes were pieced with an early machine, while the edges of the flag were bound with hand-stitching. This is a one-sided flag with exposed seams on the reverse, which is not surprising for a hand constructed example made for a celebration during the early 20th century.
Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every horizontal seam within the field, as well as in the canton as needed for support. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton, black in color, which was 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. 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
||1st Half 20th Century (1901 -1949)|
||Excellent. There are only tiny stains and a tack hole in the extreme top corner of the fly end.
*Information in this paragraph was taken from �Standards & Colors of the American Revolution� by Edward C. Richardson (1982, University of Pennsylvania Press and the Pennsylvania Society of the Revolution and its Color Guard).|
||Frame: 38.25" x 49.75" Flag: 27.25" x 39"
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