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13 star American national flag, made sometime in the period between 1850 and the Civil War (1861-65), with an eccentric feature that places it among the most unusual 13 star flags I have ever encountered. This consists of a traditional 3-2-3-2-3 configuration�the most common across all such flags with sewn construction�yet with a huge star placed in the upper hoist-end corner. I have never before seen this design, which is unique among known examples.

The fabric that the Navy blue canton is made of is also unusual. It consists of either a blended silk and wool fabric or a fine wool that is simply woven in such a manner that it achieves a polished sheen. Many Civil War flags that have cotton stripes, such as this one, have cantons that are made of some other fabric, typically a fine, clothing grade, merino wool or a wool and cotton blend. This was apparently the case due to a shortage of lightweight blue cotton during wartime. But while the typical fabrics for cantons in homemade flags seem similar to this one by description, the canton on this flag has a different look and feel than any other I have previously seen. The stars are also unusual as they are made of a fine, glazed cotton chintz.

It is the presence of the large star, however, that makes the flag so dynamic and gives it a presentation that is at the same time bold and modernistic, like a piece of contemporary art. Note how the larger star is slightly off-set and located below where it should be to complete the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern in a balanced fashion. Also note how the stars point in various directions on their vertical axis, which contributes to its visual impact. Since there was no official star configuration until 1912, the makers of early flags took all manner of liberties with the design and it is this fact, when left to the whims of its maker, that can place early Stars & Stripes among the best examples of folk art within the world of Americana. Though the purpose behind the making of this flag is not known, it can be guessed that it was either used in the recruitment of soldiers, or simply for a more general display of patriotism. 13 star flags were made at this time by Union supporters to commemorate the American struggle for liberty during the Revolution and draw a parallel to the current conflict with the South, yet dated examples have also been found dating slightly earlier, probably made for related patriotic purposes as America escalated toward war.

13 star flags have been used throughout our Nation�s history for a variety of purposes. In addition to their use during the Civil War, 13 star flags were also employed at sea for utilitarian reasons. The U.S. Navy used 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. As the number of states grew, ship captains were concerned about the recognizability of the flag on the open seas. The idea behind keeping the star count at 13, particularly on a smaller flags, was that the stars could be more easily discerned through a spyglass at a distance. 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 ships. 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, still persists today. Among other uses, 13 star flags were displayed at the semi-centennial in 1926, when General Lafayette made his final visit to the U.S. Many examples were made for use at the 1876 centennial and the 1926 sesquicentennial, as well as other occasions that commemorated American independence.

Construction: Construction: The flag is entirely hand-sewn. Since most flags of the period include at least some machine stitching, the fact that the flag is hand-sewn is a particularly nice feature. The polished cotton stars are double-appliqu�d (applied to both sides) of the blue canton (see ppg. II for description of fabric). The stripes of the flag are made of cotton. There is a narrow cotton sleeve, inside which a braided hemp rope was sewn for hoisting.

Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted.
Inventory Number:


Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, llc
Contact   Jeff Bridgman Phone: (717) 502-1281
Period: 19th Century (1801-1900)
Date: 1850-1865
Origin: American
Condition: There is minor breakdown in the cotton throughout, especially located in the top red stripe and at the fly end of the 3rd red stripe. There is a repair to a vertical separation along the hoist end of the canton and a repaired hole in its top center. There is minor fading, accompanied by minor foxing and staining. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Measurements: flag: 44" x 82.5" frame: n/a
Inventory Other Inventory by this Dealer
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
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