|Small scale 13 star flag of the type made from roughly the last decade of the 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th century. The stars are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most often seen pattern in 13 star flags of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. The 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some experts feel could have been the design of the very first American flag, serving as a link between this star pattern and the British Union Jack.
This is a somewhat unusual example when compared to most, both due of the flag�s overall size and its elongated proportions. Many early ship�s ensigns were long and narrow, like this flag, which allowed them to be trimmed back as the fly end became damaged by the wind. Flags made for the private marketplace during this later period seldom mimicked the earlier formats, however, and generally appear in sizes of two-by-three feet (most common) and two-and-a-half by four feet (somewhat less common), both of which are more normal in appearance. This flag measures about two-and-a-half-by-five feet in length, so it is both larger than most and its atypical, elongated form is more visually interesting. It is reasonable to presume that less ordinary examples, like this one, were probably produced in the beginning of the era of their popularity, sometime in the 15-year window between 1895 and 1910.
Why 13 Stars? The U.S. Navy had long been using 13 stars on its small-scale flags because they wished the stars to be easily discerned at a distance. This was the original number of stars on the American flag and equal to the number of original colonies. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, two circumstances occurred. One, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag and two, it became more and more difficult to view them from afar as individual objects on a small flag.
For all practical purposes, commercial flag-makers simply didn't produce flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's. There are rare exceptions to this rule, but until this time, the smallest sewn flags were approximately 6 feet on the fly. The primary use had long been more utilitarian than decorative, and flags needed to be large to be effective as signals. But private use grew with the passage of time, which led to the need for long-term use flags of more manageable scale.
Beginning around 1890, flag-makers began to produce small flags for the first time in large quantities. Applying the same logic as the U.S. Navy, they chose the 13 star count rather than the full compliment of stars for sake of ease and visibility. Any flag that has previously been official, remains so according to the flag acts, so 13 star flags were and still are official today.
13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation's history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use on the small scale flags of the 1890-1920's era, the U.S. Navy used the 13 star count on small boats, both in the 18th century and through most or all of the 19th century, particularly the second half. The Navy�s use of the 13 star flag ended in 1916 following an executive order written by President Woodrow Wilson. Among other uses, 13 star flags were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars, used at patriotic events, including Lafayette�s visit in 1825-26, celebration of the Nation�s centennial in 1876 and the sesquicentennial in 1926.
Construction: The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting, pieced with a treadle machine. The cotton stars are machine-sewn with a zigzag stitch and double-appliqu�d (applied to both sides of the flag). The zigzag stitch was first patented for use on flags in 1892, but it didn�t see widespread use until around 1896. There is a twill cotton header along the hoist with 2 brass grommets. The letters "FT" are stenciled in black in near the bottom of this, which is an abbreviation for "feet". The number 5 was hand-written a little ways before this, next to the lower grommet.
Mounting: The flag has been stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. Then flag was then hand-sewn to background of 100% cotton twill, 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 flag was then placed in a black-painted and hand-gilded, contemporary 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 minor mothing throughout and there is very minor foxing and staining. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.|
||Frame: 39.5" x 70.75" Flag: 28.75" x 59.5"
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