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  39 STARS ON AN ANTIQUE AMERICAN FLAG WITH HAND-SEWN, SINGLE-APPLIQUÉD STARS, MADE BY ANNIN IN NEW YORK CITY, DATING TO THE 1876 CENTENNIAL OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, NEVER AN OFFICIAL STAR COUNT, REFLECTS THE ANTICIPATED ARRIVAL OF COLORADO AND THE DAKOTA TERRITORY

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 84" x 108"
Flag Size (H x L): 71.25" x 95"
Description....:
39 star American national flag, made and signed by the Annin Company in New York City. The stars are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and single-appliquéd. This means that they were applied to one side of the canton, then the blue fabric was cut from behind each star, folded over, and under-hemmed, so that one star could be viewed on both sides of the flag. I always find single-appliquéd stars more interesting, not only because they are evidence of a more difficult level of seam-work and stitching, but also because they are more visually intriguing. Both the sewing itself and stretching of the fabrics over time results in stars that tend to have irregular shapes and interesting presentation. This is why flags with single-appliquéd stars often appeal to connoisseurs of early American textiles. The two visible rows of hand-stitching emphasize their hand-sewn construction and the nature of the technique leads to elevates folk qualities.

39 star flags were made at two different times in the late 19th century. The first were made in 1876 in anticipation of the addition of two new states. In that year, however, only one of these was added, Colorado (on August 1st), which brought the star count from 37 to 38. This meant that the 39 star flags being produced at that time were inaccurate. Thirteen years later, 39 star flags were being made once again. On November 2nd of 1889, the Dakotas came in as two different states, North & South, which forever rendered 39 star flags both obsolete and unofficial.

The use of this particular type of star construction is one indication of manufacture at the earlier date, as is the method in which the flag was signed.

There were basically two types of construction for American flags during the 19th century, printed and sewn. Most printed flags were what flag enthusiasts call parade flags or hand-wavers. Generally measuring three feet long and less, these were tacked or glued to a stick and waved at parades or political events. In the case of printed parade flags, despite having not been official, 39 star examples were produced in large quantity. In fact, this is one of the most common star counts of the entire 19th century. With this knowledge in hand, it may come as a surprise to learn that 39 star flag made of individually pieced and sewn stripes, and with and individually sewn stars, are among the most rare. Only a handful of examples are known. Among these, it is of interest to note that at least two are commercially-made flags produced and signed by the Annin Company in New York City. The flag that is the subject of this narrative is one of those two.

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. While some sources that record makers of military goods lack reference to specific military contracts with Annin, their Wikipedia entry might explain why. The narrative states: "…the U.S. Signal Corps requisitioned all its wartime flags from Annin Flagmakers for the Civil War. An undated newspaper article in Annin's 1860's archives states: "Without going through forms of contract, Annin supplied the government direct." "…As the war progressed, orders came pouring in from every state and city that was loyal to the Union, so that by the beginning of 1864, there was not a single battlefield, a brigade or a division that did not use Annin flags."

The stars of the flag (hand-sewn and single-appliquéd) are arranged in justified lineal rows of 8-8-7-8-8. The canton and stripes of the flag are made of wool bunting that has been pieced and sewn with treadle stitching. Wool sheds water and was the fabric of choice for extended outdoor use. There is a twill cotton binding along the hoist with two brass grommets, along which is a black stencil that reads: "Annin & Co.," followed by a very faded address of "99 & 101 Fulton St. N.Y." Because flags with maker's mark are uncommon in this period, the presence of the stencil is of particular interest. The text is accompanied by a number "10" and an "X," the former of which indicates the original length of the flag in feet.

An image survives of a 39 star flag of approximately this scale, possibly a bit larger, hanging prominently at the 1876 Centennial Expo in Philadelphia. Although the specific use of this exact flag remains unknown, that would have been exactly the sort of setting in which one would have been likely to find a flag of precisely this sort, ordered by a decorator from a major maker. Whatever the case may be, it survives as a rare example of the period, with a great story in the use of an interesting star count, beautifully hand-sewn stars, and the scarce presence of a maker's mark.

Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted. For nearly 20 years we have operated a textile conservation business where expert staff conserve, restore, mount and frame early flags and other related material. Having mounted and framed literally thousands of flags-- more than anyone worldwide--we can attend to all of your needs in this regard. Feel free to inquire.

Condition: There is loss from obvious use in the top, hoist-end corner of the canton, with an early patch repair on the reverse. There are minor losses along the top and bottom stripes and in the canton, and there are very minor holes elsewhere throughout. There is a hole and associated tearing near the center of the hoist binding where a rope was almost certainly added to help keep the flag better affixed to a pole. This is fairly common in flags with a 6-foot hoist measurements and two grommets. The flag was originally 10 feet in length. There is minor foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by a modest area in the 4th white stripe. Minor professional color restoration (reversible) was undertaken here, as well as at the extremely fly end of the 4th and 5th white stripes. When it was found, a portion of the final two feet had been replaced. This occurred sometime during the 20th century. We removed the modern restoration, leaving as much of the original flag as possible, and re-hemmed the fly end. At this time we also restored a small portion of the last white stripe and approximately 1/5th of the current length of the last red stripe, at the fly end, using fabric from the original flag that was present alongside the modern restoration that was removed. In other words, in the first 11 stripes, the flag was merely turned back and hemmed in the proper fashion, and the last 2 stripes were carefully restored using the flag's own original fabric. This is precisely what would have been done in the period. Because there were no official proportions for the Stars & Stripes until 1912, because the repair was as noninvasive as possible, because this is what would have been done during the 19th century, and because the flag presents beautifully, its present state is very much acceptable. In addition, many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 39
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: North Dakota
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD
 

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