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American national flags with 27 stars, made at the time when Florida gained statehood, are among the rarest of the 19th century. Very few period examples exist and most major collections of early flags that have been assembled over the years have not included one. Because there was no official configuration until 1912, their design before that time was left to the whims of the maker. Most structured their stars in lineal rows or columns. A much smaller number chose circular designs, such as the one seen here, in which the stars are arranged in a double-wreath form of a medallion configuration, employing 4 different sizes of stars, with a star in the center and a flanking star in each corner of the blue canton. Whimsical star configurations such as this are prized by collectors for their visual presentation. The flag is homemade and entirely hand-sewn. The red stripes are made of cotton and the white of polished cotton. The blue canton is made of fine merino wool. The stars are made of plain weave cotton, as-is the hoist, which is pieced in four sections. This appears to have been formerly wrapped around a staff and stitched in place, then later tacked. The stars of the flag are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides). At least two hands were at work here, possibly three. Because this is a homemade flag, the work of a woman and one or more children is not unexpected. The center star, the four corner stars, and 5 of the stars along the top region of the outer wreath are formally appliquéd by an experienced hand, with their edges turned under accordingly and fine stitching. The remainder of the stars in the outer wreath were clipped in a pattern that has somewhat bulging profiles, then appliquéd directly with their edges left rough, using a simple running stitch. The stars in the inner wreath were clipped by a different hand, with flatter edges, but sewn in a similar fashion. The latter two groups were probably done by young members of the household. Part of the reason why 27 star flags are so rare is that the star count was official for only one year. Florida became the 27th state on March 3rd, 1845. After the Third Flag Act (1818), stars were officially added to the American flag on the 4th of July following a state's addition. This meant that the 27th star would theoretically have been added on July 4th, 1845. Because the makers of flags, both private and public, cared little for the acts of Congress, the 27th star would have been added by most makers at the time of the addition of the state, if not shortly beforehand in anticipation of the event. The practice of making anticipatory flags was popular in early America when the nation was eager for expansion. Texas entered the Union as the 28th state on December 29th, 1845, approximately 9.5 months after Florida. While the 28th star was not officially added until July 4th, 1846, most flag-makers would have once again added it on or before Texas' addition. So the production of 27 star flags had a window of approximately 9-10 months, which meant that it was one of the shortest lasting star counts in American history. Another reason that 27 star flags are so scarce is that they were produced during a time before the Stars & Stripes was in widespread use. Flags made prior to the Civil War are extremely rare, comprising less than one percent of 19th century flags that exist in the 21st century. Prior to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, the Stars & Stripes was simply not used for most of the same purposes we employ it in today. Private individuals did not typically display the flag in their yards and on their porches. Parade flags didn't often fly from carriages and horses. Places of business rarely hung flags in their windows. The only consistent private use prior to 1861 seems to have accompanied political campaigning. Even the military did not use the national flag in a manner that most people might think. Most people are surprised to learn that the infantry wasn’t authorized to carry the Stars & Stripes until the 1830’s, and even then did not often exercise the right, because it was neither required nor customary. The primary purpose before the Mexican War (1846-48) was to mark ships on the open seas. While the flag was used to mark garrisons and government buildings, the flags of ground troops were often limited to the flag of their own regiment and a federal standard. Adding to the flag's appeal is its small scale. At approximately 37 x 58.5 inches, this is one of the smaller flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that one may expect to encounter prior to the 1890’s, and especially pre-1861. In early America, such flags were typically 8 feet long and larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from great distance. Garrison flags measured a massive 35 – 45 feet on the fly and ship’s flags were likewise large by necessity. Even infantry battle flags were approximately six by six-and-one-half feet and thus practically the size of an average quilt of the same period. Many collectors prefer smaller flags because they are more practical to frame and display. In summary, this is an exceptionally rare, pre-Civil War flag with one of the rarest star counts known in flag collecting, homemade and entirely hand-sewn flag, with a desirable star pattern consisting of several sizes of stars, and in a great small size for the period. Mounting: The flag has been hand-sewn to 100% silk organza throughout for support. It was then hand-stitched to 100% cotton, 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 mount was then placed in a combination of two modern moldings that have a black finish with red undertones and highlights.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1845-1846
Origin: United State
Condition: See Item Description
Measurements: Frame: 49" x 71.25" Flag: 36.75" x 59"
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: Please Call or Email
E-mail: Inquire
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