Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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38 STARS ON A CORNFLOWER BLUE CANTON, ARRANGED IN AN EXTREMELY INTERESTING VERSION OF A MEDALLION CONFIGURATION THAT INCORPORATES A DISTINCT SALTIRE, A BEAUTIFUL HOMEMADE FLAG OF THE 1876-1889 PERIOD, REFLECTS COLORADO STATEHOOD

Web ID: 38j-1084
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 96.25" x 54"
Flag Size (H x L): 84.5" x 41.5"
 
Description:
38 star American national flag with a host of visually and historically interesting features. Chief among these is the configuration of its stars. These are arranged in a medallion pattern that consists of a large and prominent center star, flanked by a star in each corner. Surrounding this are two, concentric, oval wreaths of stars, and beyond the wreaths, outside the basic pattern is another flanking star in each corner of the blue canton.

One of the most unusual and intriguing characteristics of this medallion design is the fact that the four stars surrounding the large center star follow diagonal lines that extend to the star in each corner of the canton, creating a prominent saltire. Commonly known as the Cross of St. Andrew, borrowing the term from the British Union Flag (a.k.a.,Union Jack), in the Civil War era this was recognized in America as the Southern Cross. The presence of this pattern in Civil War-period flags, or in those made in the two decades that followed, is suggestive of possible Confederate sympathies. Whether this was the intention or not, in the case of this particular flag, is unknown, but whatever the case may be, symbolism of various kinds, both obvious and subtle, abounds in Civil War era flags, as well as those produced in its wake. This was a time of great passion and expression, and because 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.

This is a homemade flag. The canton is constructed of fine merino wool. This appears in a beautiful shade of cornflower blue that sets the flag firmly apart from its counterparts of the period. The blue-grey, twill-woven binding along the top end of the flag and the patch of the same fabric at the top of the hoist were added for support and repair. Just as there was no official star pattern for the Stars & Stripes until 1912, there were no official shades of red and blue and no official proportions. Note the elongated format of the flag itself, which adds another strong visual feature. Attributes such as these raise interest among both flag collectors and casual observers alike.

Wreath formations can be circular or oval. Oval variations are more unusual and are appreciated by flag collectors, due to both their scarcity and presentation. The stars themselves are made of cotton and are applied to both sides of the canton. These are not formally appliquéd, with the edges rolled under, but were instead simply applied with a small row of hand-stitches, placed at the tip of each star.

The stripes of the flag are made of plain weave cotton. These have been pieced and joined with treadle stitching. The same stitching was then used to reinforce three of the stars, running point-to-point, through their centers. This was a difficult task with a treadle machine, which is why the method was seldom pursued before the advent of electricity. It is not particularly unusual, however, to see a flag-maker attempt to do this before abandoning the idea.

There is a cotton binding along the hoist, in the form of an open sleeve, applied with treadle stitching, through which a braided cotton rope was threaded and stitched in place by hand. The name “Chas. Freeman” was inscribed along this in pencil, near the bottom, on the obverse (front). This would represent the name of a former owner and it was common to mark flags in this fashion during the 19th and early 20th centuries to indicate ownership. The initials “McC” were also added, with a dip pen, in the same general location, in the extreme corner. Research into these markings bore no results, which was of little surprise as the name is too common and the initials too vague to be meaningful. Even so, their presence adds a personal element to the textile that is of both academic and general historic interest.

When a visually impressive star pattern or is present on an early flag, desirability among collectors is heightened. When the design is rare or even unique, as-is the case here, and historically intriguing messages appear to exist, the increase in interest can become exponential. The inclusion of St. Andrew’s Cross adds both mystery and value, and whether or not the flag bears Southern sympathies, the configuration of the stars is very graphic.

Despite the fact that this might seem to be a large flag by modern standards, it is quite small in scale among those made for extended outdoor use prior to 1890. During the 19th century, flags with pieced-and-sewn construction (as opposed to printed) were typically eight feet long or larger. This is because they were important in their function as signals, meaning that they needed to be seen and recognized from a great distance. Even flags made for decorative purpose were generally very large by today’s standards.

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.

Mounting: The flag has been placed in its correct vertical position, with its canton in the upper left. It was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples. Feel free to contact us for more details.

The cove-shaped molding has a very dark brown, nearly black surface with reddish highlights, and a rope style inner lip. To this a flat profile liner, with a finish like gunmetal, was added as a liner. The glazing is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: There is very minor mothing in the canton. There is a general, overall oxidation of the white cotton stars and extremely minor foxing and staining in the stars and the stripes. The blue-grey twill tape along the top edge of the canton was added for strength/repair. At the same time the binding along the canton was moved in just slightly and re-stitched and a small patch of the same blue-grey fabric was added as a gusset in the upper hoist-end corner. The overall condition is remarkable for the period.
   
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: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281
Nautical:
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com


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