Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
About Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques:
Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags

When it comes to antique American flags, dealer Jeff Bridgman is the world's most trusted authority. No one puts more time and care into their study, conservation, and display. Stocking over 3,000 examples, most of them dating to the 19th century, he is the only source with a vast selection of high-end offerings, as well as examples for the beginner, with the expertise to provide confidence at all levels.

Jeff opened his business 32 years ago with a thousand dollars and a relenting work ethic. His love for collecting goes back as far as he can remember. With an antiques enthusiast mother and a father who was both a professor and a student of history, plus Jeff's own love for art and design, he began buying box lot leftovers from an auctioneer neighbor while still in elementary school.

Traveling to historic places with his family throughout childhood, Jeff's interest in decorative arts, collecting, and his fascination with early America, culminated in a desire to spend his life in search of colorful and unique objects, buying, selling, studying, and conserving his nation's past.

Earning a degree in Economics, Jeff left for graduate school in Boston, where he frequented the Museum of Fine Arts and repeatedly walked the Freedom Trail, perused colonial cemeteries, frequented Beacon Hill's Louisburg Square and Acorn Street. He absorbed early New England and furnished his apartment with American furniture and decorative arts. Returning to Pennsylvania to shift academic programs, he opened his business, becoming both full time graduate student and antiques dealer. He bought American country furniture, utilitarian and decorative arts objects, and developed an expertise in early textiles. Jeff joined the antiques show circuit in 1992 and has since exhibited at more than 1,600 shows, from outdoor markets in the early days to the nation's most prestigious events today.

As a devout fan of both America and early cloth, Jeff always bought and sold vintage flags. His focus on the Stars & Stripes specifically, however, came when he stumbled upon his first great ones. He was surprised to discover that, despite his admiration for American textiles with bold visual qualities, and despite the level of respect for them in general among both collectors and dealers of Americana, almost no one in his industry understood early flags, and only one individual truly specialized in them. Jeff was amazed that he never encountered fine examples at shows, even when there were thousands of exhibitors, and he quickly discovered that practically no one knew even the most basic facts within this sub-specialty. They didn't know what our national flag looked like throughout American history, let alone how examples were accurately identified and dated. And no one had the opportunity to handle enough of them in their own two hands to truly understand them. This lack of education in antique flags spread beyond the private market into the museum world, where they were almost equally ignored or forgotten.

Recognizing with awe the lack of understanding of America's most beloved symbol, and the great artistic and historical value they held, Jeff opened a new door within the field of Americana. Here was something so obviously important, yet so shockingly overlooked. Many years and thousands of flags later, Jeff is widely considered to be the foremost expert in the field. He also became the preeminent dealer of American political flags, banners, kerchiefs, and other graphic textiles. Specializing in the 19th century, Jeff has handled far more material than anyone worldwide, inside or outside institutions, in this long-neglected category.

In any area of focus within the antiques trade, be it paintings, silver, furniture, glass, toys, maps, etc. , there is no substitute for learning that outweighs actually holding a vast number of objects in ones' hands, from the common to the extraordinary. First-hand analysis and comparisons are essential to understanding. One may read books and articles and study images, but to rule out fakes, forgeries, and misrepresented material and for effective dating, there is no substitution for years of first-hand evaluation.

If you want to acquire a flag used in the presidential campaigns of Abraham Lincoln, for example, who better to ask than the person who has physically held and sold more of them than anyone else, including the best examples known to exist? If you want to acquire a 13 star flag ??? made continuously throughout American history ??? Jeff has personally owned more than 800 antique examples. In 2019 he curated the first ever, large scale exhibition of them at a major museum.

In addition to buying, evaluating, researching, and writing about flags, Jeff has spent countless hours preserving them. For more than 20 years, Jeff and his staff have operated a textile conservation department. Here flags, banners, and other textiles are mounted and framed by expert conservators, with experience gained from years of practice and continual innovation.

Jeff is somewhat unique among his peers in the antiques industry, because in addition to buying, selling, and preserving flags, he also lends material to museums and personally curates exhibitions. He performs appraisals for both leading museums and insurance companies. In 2013 he appraised George Washington's headquarters flag for the Museum of the American Revolution, which absorbed most of the venerable collection of Valley Forge. In 2010, he appraised the only surviving flag thought to have possibly been made by Betsy Ross, for a temporary loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts to Winterthur Museum, and loaned the flag that greeted visitors as they entered the exhibition.

Jeff has helped to build many of the nation's best private collections of antique flags and actively curates some of the most significant among them. He has sold to major museums, and for many years has been the go-to source for Polo Ralph Lauren stores, offices, private residences, and special projects.

Jeff is a member of the three top professional organizations in America for the antiques trade, the American Antiques Dealers Association, the Antiques Council, and the Antiques & Arts Dealer's League of America, all of which accept members by invitation only. He has served on the boards and committees of two of these and is regularly asked to appraise quality and authenticity at vetted antique shows.

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