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Commissioning pennants are the distinguishing mark of a commissioned U.S. Navy ship. A ship became commissioned when this pennant was hoisted, and the commissioning pennant is flown during both times of peace and war, and is only not flown if a flag officer or civilian official is aboard and replaces it with their own flag.

Today such pennants do not exceed six feet, but early pennants needed to be prominent in order to serve their purpose as signals. This particular example measures approximately 164� in length (or about 13.5 feet), which is still very much on the small side for the 19th century. Commissioning pennants often exceeded twenty feet on the fly and lengths of fifty to seventy feet were not unheard of.

Early on the pennants would typically have a number of stars that reflected the number of states, like this example. As time progressed, however, and more and more states were added, number of stars was reduced to either 13 (to reflect the original number of states) or 7 stars. After approximately 1900, most all pennants had 7 stars. According to the U.S. Navy, the reason for the choice of 7 stars was not recorded. It might represent the 7 seas, or may have simply been what seemed to be a logical design choice when these pennants were substantially shortened.

This pennant has but 6 stars, however, which makes it very rare, as only two American National flag style commissioning pennants are known that incorporate this star count. The reason behind the choice is not known, though it is entirely plausible that the pennant become damaged on the hoist end and was repaired by shortening the canton and thus removing one star. But there is no hard evidence that this is the case and many odd circumstances exist in early flags and commissioning pennants varied a great deal from one to the next. Navy regulations were known to change as often as yearly with respect to the use of some types of signals and each Commodore exerted his own preference when ordering them.

Note that the vertical orientation of the stars varies from one to the next and how this fact contributes to its overall presentation. The manner of the tapering in the stripe field is slightly unusual. Note how it is wider at the top, then tapers abruptly to join a second section of fabric, which is flopped backwards in regard to the seaming on the two respective sections. The second section does not taper, but remains relatively consistent in its hoist measurement from the horizontal seam to the fly end, where there is simply a blunt end as opposed to a swallowtail tip. Some commissioning pennants terminated in this fashion, while others terminated in a swallowtail.

The body of the pennant is made of wool bunting and is entirely hand-sewn, while the stars are made of cotton and double-appliqu�d (applied to both sides of the navy blue field). The hoist is made of a wooden bar that has been covered in cotton and bound with hand-stitching and there is a single, hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommet in the very center.

Mounting: The pennant has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, which has been washed and treated to reduce and set the dye. A shadowbox was created to accommodate the zigzag-style folding of the textile. The front 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: 1870-1880
Condition: There is only the most minor fabric loss from mothing of the wool bunting and degradation of the white cotton. The overall condition is exceptional for the period.
Measurements: frame: 29.75" x 52" Flag: 4.5" at widest point x 13.5ft long (unfurled)
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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