|The medallion configuration, 13-star, 13-stripe flag with a canted center anchor was entered into official use in 1848, following an act of Congress, that made it the official signal for U.S. pleasure sailing vessels. The need for such a flag arose with the popularity of boating as a pastime for well-to-do Americans, and as a competitive sport, in addition to its longstanding utilitarian role as a vehicle of trade. In early America, all boats were subject to customs searches at every port. Without modern income tax, the federal government derived its revenues mostly from tariffs, so an accounting of foreign goods on ships was a critical venture. As yachting for pleasure became more prevalent, however, more and more time was spent searching boats that had no such inventory, wasting time for both customs officials and wealthy ship owners.
John Cox Stevens, a former president of the Jockey Club and future founder of the Union League Club, became the New York Yacht Club�s Commodore upon its founding in 1845. In 1847 he approached the secretary of the treasury and suggested that something be done to streamline the customs process for non-trade vessels. In 1848 legislation passed Congress requiring registration of these boats, which could then fly the �American Yachting Signal� to bypass customs. In the 1980�s the 1848 legislation was revoked, but the use of flags in this design continues to this day.
Made sometime between 1876 and 1890, this is among the earliest private yacht ensigns that exist in modern day America. Despite being an early design, very few survive that pre-date the 1890's. Only a very small number are known that have hand-sewn elements, like this flag.
Measuring just 30 inches on the fly, this is the smallest flag that I have ever seen in this design that has hand-sewn stars and a hand-sewn anchor. It is, in fact, among the smallest wool flags I have ever seen that date to this period. The small size is a very desirable trait. Prior to the 1890�s, most flags made for extended outdoor use were very large. Those with sewn construction were generally eight feet long and larger. This is because flags needed to be seen from a distance to be effective in their purpose as signals, while today their use is more often decorative and the general display of patriotism. Because 19th century sewn flags can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting, many collectors prefer small examples, like this one.
Also note the nice visual qualities, which include a light blue canton and especially small stars in proportion to the anchor they encircle. The medallion is smaller than usual, with plenty of open space on each side.
Construction: The stars and anchor are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and are double-appliqu�d. This means that they are applied to both sides. The canton and the stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced with treadle stitching. There is a twill cotton header with two brass grommets, along which �30� is stenciled in black ink to indicate length in inches. "X 22" was added with a dip pen to indicate the hoist measurement.
Mounting: The 2-part, silver gilt American molding dates to the period between 1900 and 1920. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza for support. It was then hand-sewn to a background of 100% hemp fabric. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic. |
Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
||Phone: (717) 502-1281
||19th Century (1801-1900)|
||There is separation of the canton from the top of the hoist running about 5.5 inches with some associated fabric loss. There is very minor mothing throughout. The canton has faded to a dusty blue color. There is moderate foxing and staining on the hoist binding|
||Frame: 32.5" x 39.5" Flag: 21.75" x 29"
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