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34 STARS, CIVIL WAR PERIOD (1861-63), AN UNUSUAL EXAMPLE WITH WOVEN STRIPES AND PRESS-DYED STARS, POSSIBLY MADE IN NEW YORK BY THE ANNIN COMPANY

Web ID: 34j-933
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 53" x 88"
Flag Size (H x L): 41" x 76"
 
Description:
34 star flag, of the Civil War period, made of a press-dyed canton and woven stripes. This uncommon example is of a type that is thought to have been made in Baltimore. The unusual construction incorporates 32 resist-dyed stars (in 4 rows of 8), with 2 additional stars appliquéd near the hoist end.

Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about two-and-a-half months before the Confederate assault on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. The 34th star was officially added on July 4th of that year, but most flag makers would have added a 34th star previously, with the addition of Kansas in January. 34 is the most common star count found on Civil War flags, as flag production was heaviest during the war’s opening two years. 34 remained the official count until July 4th, 1863 and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.

Without additional information, one might logically conclude that this flag was made in the 32 star period (1858-59) and updated for the opening years of the Civil War (1861-63). But others exist in same exact style, all of which (in this scale) have the 2 additional stars. In all likelihood, this was manner in which this particular flag-maker decided to produce this style of flag. Rows of stars were simply press-dyed onto a bolt of fabric, which was then clipped wherever necessary, to come as close as possible to the desired star count. Additional stars were then clipped from the same bolt and single-appliquéd within the canton to arrive at the appropriate total.

This wasn't a bad idea on the surface, for the simple reason that the star count changed so frequently during the 19th century. The process would allow both flag-maker and purchaser to easily change the star count when another state was added. But evidence shows that it never caught on. Examples of the same type of flag, in a smaller size, do exist with just 32 stars. None of the smaller size are presently known that have the 2 additional stars added, however, and no other star counts are known in this style except 32 and 34.

In addition to the novel idea behind their manufacture, these flags have attractive and interesting colors. The red stripes are, in fact, woven into the fabric, not printed. The weft is red where the stripes are red, but the warp in these areas is white, so the fabric looks like oxford cotton shirts, with white thread going in one direction, but colored thread in the other, so that the overall effect has tomato or persimmon red overtones. The blue, by contrast, is both unusual and vibrant.

While the name of the maker remains unknown, the late flag expert Howard Madaus suggested that there was reason to believe that these flags were produced by the Annin Company in New York City.** Annin is our nation's eldest flag-maker that is still in business today. The company was founded in the 1830's, incorporated in 1847, and was located in New York until the 1960’s, when it moved to Verona, New Jersey.

The stripe field is woven in two sections that have been joined with hand-stitching. The canton was hand-stitched to the stripes and the binding along the hoist is made of heavy cotton twill. Along this illegible text is hand-inscribed in pencil. This probably represents the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th century. There is a hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommet at the top and bottom for hoisting.

Some Notes on the Press-Dying Process:
First patented in 1849, the press-dying process was thought to be a novel idea in-and-of-itself that would improve flag-making efficiency. In this case, for example, it could potentially alleviate the chore of hand-appliquéing 68 stars (34 on each side). In reality, however, it must have been less effective and efficient than sewing. To achieve white stars, for example, pieces of white fabric or waxed paper, in the shape of stars, had to be cut out and carefully placed on both sides of the white wool bunting, or a solution that would resist the dye had to be printed or brushed on first. The bunting was then dyed blue and the areas where the stars were positioned would be left white. Also called resist-dyeing, one can imagine why this task may have been anything but simple with 19th century technology. This inexact art would often add crude characteristics, such as stripes with irregular lines, in various widths, and stars with inconsistent shapes, in slightly varying sizes. It is likely that this resulted in lost product and wasted time, from flags that had bleeding or misprint issues and were of too poor quality to sell. This may perhaps explain why it never became a become a popular method of flag production.

Wool was included because it sheds water, making it the fabric of choice for all maritime flags and, in fact, most flags made by professional flag-makers for long-term outdoor use. The inclusion of cotton would have made the fabric easier to press-dye. Printing on 100% wool is costly and difficult. Even today, only about 1% of wool fabric is printed*, because it generally needs to be washed afterward and wool cannot easily be treated with water.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-sewn to 100% natural fabrics throughout for support. It was then sewn to a background fabric of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed and treated to reduce excess dye. And 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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding. The glazing is u.v. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There is minor to moderate foxing and soiling throughout, the most significant of which is in the center of the flag across the bottom 6 stripes. There is a series of lateral tears resulting from fabric breakdown, with associated loss, running laterally through the canton, then onward through the lower edge of the 2nd red stripe, There are 2 other moderate holes in the canton, including one in the lower center and one in the bottom, hoist-end corner that continues slightly into the stripe field. There are other minor to moderate, lateral and horizontal tears with associated loss throughout both the canton and the stripe field. many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.

* Chen, W., Wang, G., & Bai, Y., “Best for Wool Fabric Printing…,” (Textile Asia, 2002, v.33 (12)), pp. 37-39.

** Madaus, H. & Smith, W., "The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict," (2006, VZ Publications, Santa Cruz, California), p. 62.
   
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Kansas
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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