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37 star American national flag with its stars arranged in what is arguably the best configuration I have ever seen on a 19th century example. This consists of a dynamic pattern that bursts outward from a larger center star. Each of the outward progressions is linear except for the topmost of the eight formations, which has three stars in a column, accompanied by a single star on either side, as though the maker were trying to illustrate a Christian cross. Though it�s impossible to be certain of what the person who designed it had in mind, as the intention might simply have been to find a place for two stars than couldn�t fit elsewhere, the result is both unusual and extraordinary.

Note how the Southern Cross, created by the two diagonal lines that run corner-to-corner in the canton, is also present in the design. With this in mind, accompanied by the knowledge that there are other Stars & Stripes variations made during the Civil War era that share this feature, the assumption that the upright cross was intentional does gain some credence. In the South, both of these symbols carried a great deal of importance. The theory of an association with the South is hardly out of the realm of imagination, since both obvious and subtle symbolism of this kind abounds in Civil War flags. This was a time of expression and since there was no official configuration of stars until 1912, the makers of flags took all manner of liberties in order to send messages to the persons who viewed them and create beautiful imagery. When either of these things exists, the interest among collectors is heightened, but when both exist, the increase in desirability becomes exponential. This is especially true when the association is with the Confederacy, as Confederate items almost universally bring higher prices than their respective Union counterparts.

One might suggest that the flag instead has a British relationship, because it clearly displays the overlaid crosses of St. Andrew and St. George that are found on the Union Jack. But it is unusual to find British symbolism on patriotic American items produced during this period, probably because we were celebrating 100 years of American independence from Britain at the 1876 centennial, which occurred at the very end of the 37 star period. Yet that possibility can�t be entirely ruled out. A parallel could be drawn here, since it is entirely possible that the maker of the flag may have actually wanted to use the Crosses of St. George and St. Andrew to send a sarcastic and sanctimonious message about American liberty from Mother England.

The whimsical stars are unusually pointy and appear in a variety of shapes, most of which resemble starfish with their arms slightly bent. Note in particular the visual effect caused by their various orientations on the striking royal blue canto. This contributes significantly to its beautiful presentation.

The 37th state, Nebraska, joined the Union in 1867, shortly following Lincoln�s death and the close of the Civil War. It was the primary flag flown during Reconstruction of the South and was used through approximately half the Indian Wars period, but the lack of major patriotic events during this era and the surplus of Civil War period flags led to much lower production levels. For these reasons, 37 star flags are quite scarce.

Despite the fact that the 37 star flag remained official until 1877, flag-makers generally produced 38 star flags and 13 star flags for the 1876 centennial and the many celebrations related to that event. This is because it was well-known that another state, Colorado, would soon join the Union. This caused flag-makers to cease production of flags with 37 stars in favor of 38. It had been nine years since a new star was added and flag-makers were anxious to add a star and give the American people yet another reason to buy new flags.

Construction: The stars of the flag, which are made of cotton, are single-appliqu�d. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue calico fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one appliqu�d star could be visible on both sides of the flag. While some persons have pointed to this as a means of conserving fabric and cutting corners (not having to sew another star to the other side), others suggest that the real purpose was to make the flag lighter in weight. I believe it to be a function of both of these goals and I always find single-appliqu�d stars more interesting. They are almost universally more visually intriguing, because the two fabrics joined in this way usually stretch at different rates to create stars that are misshapen and therefore more crude. In addition, when executed properly they are firm evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching.

Here the initial appliqu� on the obverse of the canton was performed by treadle machine, while the under-hemming of the reverse side was executed by hand. The stripes of the flag are cotton bunting, joined with treadle stitching, while the canton was pieced vertically by hand and joined to the stripe field with hand stitching. The hoist end was folded over around a braided hemp rope and affixed with hand-stitching.

Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted.

Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Condition: The flag is in outstanding condition for the period.
Measurements: 65" x 128"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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