Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: 38j-939
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 79" x 114.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 68" x 103"
38 star American national flag with its stars arranged in a configuration that falls among the best-of-the-best that I have ever seen on a 19th century example. This consists of a dynamic pattern that appears to burst outward from the center into what I have termed a “cross” or “starburst” medallion.

Note that the colors of the flag are particularly beautiful. The canton is an lustrous shade of what can be termed steel, Prussian, or Carolina blue, unusual among its counterparts of the period. This contrasts beautifully with the red stripes, that lean just a hair toward persimmon orange.

Note also how the Southern Cross is present in the design, formed by the two diagonal lines that run corner-to-corner in the canton. With this in mind, accompanied by the knowledge that there are other known Stars & Stripes of the Civil War and post-war era that share the same feature, the assumption can be made that the flag may have been produced with Southern sympathies. Symbolism of this kind, both obvious and subtle, abounds in Civil War era flags. This was, of course, a time of great passion and expression, and since there was no official way to configure the stars on the American flag until 1912, flag makers took all manner of liberties to both send messages and create beautiful imagery. When either of these two things exists, the interest among collectors is heightened. When both exist, the increase in desirability becomes exponential. This is especially true when there is an association with the South, as 19th century Confederate items almost universally draw higher prices than their respective Union counterparts. Whether or not the flag bears Southern sympathies, however, the configuration of the stars on this example is so unusual and so extraordinarily graphic that it easily falls in the top 1% of those known to exist.

It is of interest to note how the blue/grey hue complements the Southern Cross, because the coats of Southern officers were often shades of blue that ran closer to grey. There may be no intended relationship here, but the circumstance is interesting nonetheless.

Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Per the Third Flag Act of 1818, stars were not officially added until the 4th of July following a state's addition. For this reason, 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876. Flag-making was a competitive venture, however, and few flag-makers would have been continuing to produce 37 star flags when their competitors were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are more often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long World’s Fair held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. Some flag-makers would have been adding a star for the 38th state even before it entered the Union, in the early part of 1876 or even prior. In fact, many makers of parade flags were actually producing 39 star flags, in hopeful anticipation of the addition of two more Western Territories instead of one. But the 39th state would not join the Union for another 13 years, when the Dakota Territory entered as two states on the same day. The 38 star flag became official on July 4th, 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.

President Ulysses S. Grant was in office when the first 38 star flags would have appeared. The list of presidents serving during the period when the 38 star flag was actually official include Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison.

"Mrs. Rundle" is inscribed in pencil along the hoist binding. This would be the name of either the maker or a former owner. A man's name or a surname only typically denotes ownership and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and the early 20th centuries. While a woman's name might likewise denote ownership, it may also be a signature of the maker.

Construction: The flag is entirely hand-sewn save for the twill cotton sleeve, which was applied with treadle stitching. The stars of the flag are made of cotton and double-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to both sides of the Prussian blue canton. The canton and stripes are made entirely of fine merino wool. Six small brass ringlets were once present along the hoist, one of which is now absent.

Merino wool flags tend to be more interesting than their cotton and wool bunting counterparts. Professional flag makers were known to have made flags available constructed of merino wool, but generally speaking this was a very fine, clothing grade fabric--as it is today--and merino wool flags tend to be homemade. They also tend to be unusual in any number of respects, often with elaborate star patterns and other interesting features. The flag in question here, probably a homemade example, is certainly no exception.

In summary, this is an absolutely exceptional flag in all respects and one of the best that I have ever encountered in the 38 star count, among which it has few peers.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabrics for support on every seam and throughout the star field. Fabrics of similar color were chosen for masking purposes. The flag was then hand-sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been 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 into a black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There are a few tiny holes and very small tears in the canton, accompanied by two closed tears that have early, stitched repairs, one measuring 2" in length and one 7". There is a small amount of loss at the very top, fly end corner of the 1st red stripe with a darning repair. There is a closed, L-shaped tear at the fly end of the 4th white stripe measuring 4" x 3.25". There is a closed, U-shaped tear near the fly end of the 6th red stripe, measuring 5.5" x .75" x 4.5". There is a small white patch at the extreme fly end of the 6th white stripe. There is very minor, scattered soiling. There are some very minor black stains in stripes along the fly end and in the lower, fly end quadrant. There are some minor to moderate black stains toward the fly end of the last two stripes. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use. Overall the condition is excellent for a flag of this period and scale with merino wool construction and it surpasses expectations in that regard.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: By phone only, call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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