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Small scale, 13-star, American national flag, made sometime between the close of the Civil War and the 1876 centennial of American independence, with a beautiful presentation and an array of interesting and desirable features. Among these are the especially small size for the period, hand-sewn stars in a 4-5-4 pattern and with upside-down positioning, a canton resting on a red stripe, and a white cotton binding at the fly end. The 4-5-4 lineal configuration is both scarcer and more appealing than rows of stars in counts of 3-2-3-2-3, and is generally seen on flags made during the Civil War period and prior. On rare occasion it can be seen on flags like this one, made near the end of the war or shortly thereafter. For some reason the 4-5-4 pattern was not popular during the celebration of our nation's 100-year anniversary of independence in 1876 or afterwards, so it is both desired and more interesting than some other 13 star designs. It is sometimes seen in the 1890's on small-scale 13 star flags produced by commercial makers, but these are scarce. There was no official star pattern for the 13 star flag set forth in the flag act of June 14th, 1777. Because the original does not survive, and descriptions of it are unrecorded, no one actually knows what the very first one looked like. Due to its apparent popularity in early America, however, as evidenced by both drawings and surviving 19th century examples, more than one flag expert has hedged that lineal rows of 4-5-4 was probably the original configuration. When the canton rests on a red stripe, some flag historians refer to this as the �blood stripe� or the �war stripe�, suggesting the flag was constructed in this manner when the nation was at war. There is evidence that the Navy used this design feature on at least some of its flags made during the mid-19th century and sometimes the placement was merely by accident. Whatever the case may be, however, the war stripe feature is extremely scarce and highly desired in flag collecting. Adding considerably to the appeal of this flag is its very small size when compared to others made during the 19th century. In modern times, this flag would be considered quite large, but prior to the 1890's however, it is both tiny and scarce when compared to its counterparts with sewn construction. Printed parade flags (sometimes called hand-wavers) were generally three feet long or smaller, but flags 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 they are most often employed for the general display of patriotism and decorative reasons. In the 19th century, even those flags made for decorative use were often large by today's standards, so the average 19th century sewn flag can be cumbersome to frame and display in an indoor setting. This is why many collectors prefer printed parade flags and smaller sewn flags, like this one. The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and double-appliqu�d, which means that they were applied to both sides of the blue canton. Note how the stars are upside-down in their vertical alignment (with two points up instead of one). No one knows if this positioning had any purpose, but there was no official way to orient the stars and it is possible that the maker of this flag did not feel that any star position was �right-side-up�. Whatever the case may be, the feature adds an interesting element to the design. The stripes and canton of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been joined with treadle stitching. There is a treadle sewn binding along the hoist, with two brass grommets. A length of white cotton was hand-stitched over the fly end as a binding. This is both an unusual feature and a desirable one. Collectors like anything that makes a flag different from the norm, especially if it is homemade and attractive in nature. 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 increasingly difficult to discern them from afar as individual objects. Commercial flag-makers produced few flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were 3 to 4 feet in length before the 1890's, but when they did they seem to have employed the same logic as the Navy and chosen to apply the 13 star count. Any American national flag that has previously been official remains so today, according to the flag acts. So the use of 13 stars (the official count from 1777 to 1795) was perfectly acceptable. 13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation�s history for a variety of purposes. The U.S. Navy flew the 13 star count on small boats, not only in the 18th century, but throughout much or all of the 19th century, particularly the second half. The practice theoretically ended in 1916 following an executive order from then-President Woodrow Wilson, though old military traditions die hard and according to at least one expert, Wilson�s order did not completely dispel the presence of 13 star flags on U.S. Navy craft. Some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy, and the use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding an anchor, which began in 1848, lasted until 1980 (and unofficially persists today). Among other uses, 13 star flags were carried by soldiers during the Mexican and Civil Wars and displayed at various patriotic events, including Lafayette�s final visit to the U.S. in 1825-26, the celebration of the Nation's centennial of independence in 1876, and the sesquicentennial in 1926. Mounting: The black-painted, softwood molding has a wide, gold-gilded, oak liner and dates to the period between 1890 and 1910. Fabric of similar coloration was placed behind the flag during the mounting process to mask losses. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to remove 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 glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1864-1876
Condition: There is minor mothing throughout, accompanied by minor foxing and staining. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Measurements: Frame: 38.25" x 53.75" Flag: 25.5" x 40.75"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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