|34 STARS ON AN EARLY CIVIL WAR FLAG (1861-1863) WITH ITS CANTON RESTING ON THE WAR STRIPE, AN UNUSUAL ELONGATED FORM; AN ATTRACTIVE SHADE OF BLUE, AND LARGE, MAKE-DO TASSELS, KANSAS STATEHOOD
|Frame Size (H x L):
|60.75" x 72.25"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|With 3D Folds: 51" x 66" (Unfurled: 51" x 103.5")
|34 star American national flag with some characteristic that are both unusual and boldly visual. The fact that the canton rests on a red stripe, instead of white, is a very rare trait. Some flag historians refer to this as the “blood stripe” or the “war stripe”, suggesting the flag was constructed in this manner when the nation was at war. There is also evidence, however, that the Navy used this design feature on at least some of its flags made during the mid-19th century. In this case, however, this is a Civil War period flag with a clear wartime message present in this feature.
The form of the flag is grossly exaggerated in length. This is sometimes the case with flags that have cantons on the war stripe. The canton can either be moved up a stripe or down a stripe to accomplish the change from the normal position. More often it is moved upward, thus the height of the canton is shortened, but the length of the canton is not adjusted. This results in a small, almost square canton on a long field of stripes, such as the one present on this flag. The elongated stripes allowed the flag to be folded back and forth in its frame to create an interesting presentation. It was folded in a 3-D fashion through the use of archival materials, so that the flag appears to be billowing in the wind.
The canton of the flag is made of very fine wool, or a wool and silk blend, in an attractive shade of light blue with green and gray overtones. The unusual color sets the flag apart from others of this period.
The tassels at the hoist end are also very strange. Each is made of a turned piece of wood, which is wrapped in tufted wool, draped at the end with twisted woolen cord, and attached to the flag with a type of woolen covered cording that is often seen in various Civil War military items. The wooden center of the red tassel is wrapped in red thread, part of which is unraveled and absent. The other tassel bears the same dusty blue color as the canton, and its center is different. A spiral groove is hand-carved down the wooden core, and a piece of fancy silk ribbon runs through this ditch. One might suggest that this color is a result of fading or a fugitive, home-dyed process, but it may be that the scarcity of blue fabric resulted in the choice of fabrics. Based upon surviving Civil War flags, it is obvious that blue cotton was a scarcity. There was no official shade of blue for the American flag until 1912, and flag-makers use what they wished. Such creativity is the lifeblood of folk art in early Stars & Stripes.
The stars of the flag point in all directions and there is lots of variation in their whimsical, starfish-like shapes. Made of cotton that has lightly oxidized to an attractive, golden brown color, the stars are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides) and placed in loosely defined rows of 9-8-8-9. The flag is entirely hand-sewn with the same kind of fine stitching and great precision that is seen in the silk battle flags of this same period and prior. The stripes are made of cotton bunting. There are five, tiny, hand-sewn, whip-stitched grommets which are unusual because they are sewn into the weak cotton bunting, yet rely on the cotton reinforced binding along the hoist end to keep them from tearing. A cotton tie is threaded through each grommet.
Despite the fact that cotton is a poor fabric choice for outdoor use, the tassels and the construction of the flag suggest that it was none-the-less carried by a Civil War unit. Probably it was presented by local women and carried until its formal colors were issued by the state, then put away only to be unfurled at special occasions. This would explain why it shows signs of obvious use but is in an excellent state of preservation.
Because the flags ordered by the military and used for recruiting were officially about the same size, with this exaggerated length (but without the war stripe feature), an alternative suggestion would be that the flag was made locally to mimic the official recruiting flags in size and shape, to be used by a local officer or official when recruiting new men to the service of the Union cause.
Kansas was admitted into the Union as the 34th state on January 29th, 1861, about 2 ½ 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 with the addition of Kansas in January. The star count remained official until July 4th, 1863, and 34 star flags would have been produced until the addition of West Virginia in June of that year.
Mounting: The flag was stitched to 100% silk organza for support on every seam and throughout the star field. Where necessary, 100% natural fabrics were placed behind the flag for masking purposes. Mylar was used to create the raised folds. The flag was then hand-stitched to its background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, which was washed to remove excess dye. An 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. A shadow-box was created to accommodate the tassels and folds. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.
Condition: The flag is in an excellent state of preservation for the period. There is minimal wind shear damage at the top corner of the fly end and minor mothing in the canton. Some of the thread wrap is absent from the core of the red tassel. Otherwise there are no significant condition issues.
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|Earliest Date of Origin:
|Latest Date of Origin:
|1861-1865 Civil War
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