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 well over 1,500 examples, most of them dating to the 19th century, he is the foremost source and the only one with a vast selection of high end offerings, as well as examples for the beginner.

Jeff opened his business 25 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 a professor that loved history, plus his own love for art and design, Jeff 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 building collections and his understanding of early America blossomed into a desire to spend his life in search of colorful and unique objects, 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, enjoying the colonial cemeteries, 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 antiques business, becoming both full time graduate student and antiques dealer. He bought American country furniture, utilitarian and decorative arts and textiles. He joined the antiques show circuit in 1992 and has since exhibited at nearly 1,000 fairs, 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. This occurred while shopping at an annual Americana show, immersed in the colorful, paint-decorated furniture and folk art that he coveted and sold. In a booth of a friend, Jeff found two little flags with dramatic circular star patterns. 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 specialized in antique American flags. He never encountered fine examples at shows, even when there were thousands of exhibitors, and he quickly discovered that practically no one understood even the most basic facts about them. They didn't know what our national flag looked like throughout American history, let alone how examples were accurately identified and dated. Interestingly enough, this lack of education in antique flags spread beyond the private market into the museum world, where they were equally ignored or forgotten.

Recognizing with awe the lack of understanding of America's most beloved symbol, and the great artistic and historical value it held for potential collectors, Jeff opened a new door within the field of Americana. With expertise in American textiles and American folk art, he saw a natural fit. Here was something so obviously important, yet so shockingly overlooked, and at the same time so well-suited for Jeff's passion for uniqueness, both within his own life and his study of early American objects.

Many years and thousand of flags later, Jeff is widely considered to be the foremost expert in the field and the preeminent dealer of American political textiles. Specializing in the 19th century, Jeff has handled more material than anyone worldwide 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, in order to make first-hand comparisons to gain a complete 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 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?

In addition to buying, evaluating, researching and writing about flags, Jeff has spent countless hours preserving them. For 17 years Jeff and his staff have operated a textile conservation lab. Here flags, banners, and other textiles are mounted and framed by masters-level trained conservators, with the many advantages of the experience gained from years of practice and continual innovation.

Jeff has lectured on antique American flags for many years. He has curated museum exhibits and performed 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.

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 serves on the board of directors of the Stars & Stripes Foundation, which manages the collection of author Kit Hinrichs and presents exhibits nationwide. Jeff has both lent and sold to 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 Antiques & Arts Dealer's League of America, the American Antiques Dealers Association, and the Antiques Council, 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.