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13 star American national flag, made during the last quarter the 19th century, either in celebration of the Nation�s centennial of independence in 1876 or as a private boat ensign during the early 1890�s.

The stars are configured in lineal rows of 3-2-3-2-3, which was very likely the design of the original Stars & Stripes, as drawn by Francis Hopkinson in 1877. Note how this design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. Note also how it can likewise be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some flag enthusiasts suggest draws a link between this star pattern and the British Union Jack. Finally, note how the stars point in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds a nice degree of folk quality to its overall presentation.

In 1848, the New York Yacht Club helped bring about legislation that allowed pleasure boats to bypass customs by flying 13 star flags with an anchor in the center of a circle of stars. This flag design is still in use today, though it does not carry the same legal tender. In the 1890�s, some pleasure boat began to fly 13 star flags without an anchor in a variety of star configurations. This practice continued into the 1920�s and then apparently fell from popularity. Though made for nautical use, some of these same flags could also be spotted on land being flown for general patriotic purpose on such occasions as Independence Day, or the 1893 World Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World�s Fair), or the celebration of our Nation�s sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) of independence in 1926.

The size of this particular example is noticeably larger than most 13 star private yachting ensigns. Most such flags measured roughly two-by-three or two-and-a-half-by-four feet, but five and six-foot examples occasionally surface, some of which were probably for larger boats, while others may have been intended for patriotic use. Whatever the case may be, these collectively remain among the smallest flags with sewn construction that were being produced during the 19th century. Flags with pieced-and-sewn construction typically measured between eight and forty-five feet in length, which makes most surviving, 19th century examples impractical for modern indoor display. Flags measuring six feet or less in length are much easier to frame and hang in an indoor setting and so are preferred by collectors.

13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on private yachts and at patriotic events, the U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats, both in the 18th century and throughout most or all of the 19th century, particularly the second half. The practice ended in 1916 following an executive order of President Woodrow Wilson. Among other uses, 13 star flags were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars and were used by political candidates on the campaign trail.

Construction: The stars are made of cotton and double-appliqu�d (applied to both sides of the flag) with a lineal treadle stitch. This is most common in flags made in the short period between 1890 and 1895. Before 1890, stars were commonly hand-sewn. Afterwards they were predominantly applied with a zigzag machine stitch.

Flag-makers began experimenting with appliqu� work by treadle machine as early as the Civil War (1861-65), but it is only seen on approximately one to five percent of surviving 34 and 35-star examples, probably due to the difficulty of continually rotating the canton while tucking under the edges of the fabric on each star and pumping the treadle, all while trying to sew a straight line along the fine edges of each point. Use of the method had grown slightly by 1876, but isn�t seen on any sizable percentage of flags until 1890. The lineal stitching of stars then promptly disappeared because the zigzag stitch, patented in 1892 for use on flags, allowed flag-makers to bind a rough-cut edge of fabric. This eliminated the need to fold the edges of the stars under, which led to an explosion of flag production. Lineal machine-stitching of stars is commonly seen on 44 star flags (1890-1896), but is rarely seen on 45 star flags (1896-1907).

The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting and pieced with treadle-stitching. There is a heavy cotton sleeve with two brass grommets for hoisting. �6 x 3� is penciled along the hoist to indicate size.

Mounting: The flag has been stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then hand-sewn to background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was 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. The flag was then placed in a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The front is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is minor mothing throughout, accompanied by minor foxing and staining. There is a small, period, wool patch repair in the upper left corner of the canton. The colors are strong and the flag falls into the 90th percentile among surviving examples of this period. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1876-1895
Origin: American
Condition: see description
Measurements: flag: 39" x 69.5", frame: 51" x 81.25"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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