Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags



Web ID: ofj-878
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 35.5" x 52"
Flag Size (H x L): 24" x 41"
This early variant of the flag of Philadelphia, with the arms of the city on a white field, is among the earliest that I have ever encountered. It probably dates to the period between 1870 and 1876, just prior to or immediately following the 1874 adoption of this version of the device, designed by Colonel Frank Marx Etting. A Philadelphia heavyweight of the late 19th century, Etting served as Director of Public Schools, Chairman of the Committee to Restore Independence Hall, and Chief of the Historical Department of the Centennial Exposition, the 1876 World's Fair, held in honor of our nation's 100-year anniversary of Independence.

According to an Philadelphia City attorney and historian by the name of Sam Robinson:

"The central elements of the current seal date back to the establishment of the modern government of the City in 1789. At the time of the Revolution, the City dissolved the Corporation which had governed since 1701, and in so doing cast off the various trappings of the Corporation, including its seal. It's not clear who designed the new seal the City adopted, although it shared numerous elements with the arms designed by a three man committee including David Rittenhouse (the astronomer for whom the Square is named) and brought into use on official Commonwealth documents and currency beginning in 1777.

Unlike the Commonwealth arms, which featured two horses "rearing respectant," the City selected a shield supported by two female figures, dressed in flowing classical garb, representing Peace, on the left, and Plenty [the goddess Ceres], on the right. In the 1789 version of the seal, Peace holds a scroll containing Penn's plan (and Holme's survey) for the City, Plenty a cornucopia overflowing with produce."*

Like most American crests, early artists took great liberty in their various renderings and, as time passed, all manner of changes could appear. In 1854, a new version of the seal was adopted by the city and in this illustration, the women were seated.

The seal on this particular flag presents distinct changes made by Etting in the version adopted in 1874. One is the swapping of Penn's map for an anchor on the scroll held by Peace, and another the addition of the swag-draped streamer at the bottom with "Philadelphia" to the left and the word "Maneto" on the right, which translates Hebrews 13:1 into Latin. In the King James Bible, this reads "Let brotherly love continue." The phrase was simultaneously adopted by the Councils as the motto of the city.

The flag of the City of Philadelphia was designed by Reverend Doctor Henry C. McCook in October of 1894 and adopted in 1895. To do so he took the device of the city and set it against a vertical bar of pale golden yellow, flanked by bars of azure blue on either side. The colors commemorate the Swedish colonization of Philadelphia (as seen on the flag of Sweeden).

According to flag historian David Martucci, prior to the 1895 adoption, the arms of the city were usually displayed on a blue ground. The white ground present on this flag is one indication of an early date of manufacture. Another indicator is the fabric used in its construction. The blended wool and cotton is often encountered in printed flags produced between the 1850's and the 1876 centennial. A further means of dating is present in the application of the device, which is printed in black or sepia, then hand-colored. This is a very unusual combination in flag-making and I cannot recall encountering another of like manufacture. An open sleeve of heavy cotton twill binds the hoist, joined with treadle stitching.

Given the specific design elements present in the seal, added by Etting in the version adopted in 1874, plus the manner of construction, the most likely date would fall between 1874 and 1876 or immediately prior. This may in fact be from the first run of material produced with the new seal. The hand-colored elements probably reflect a very small run of production or even a prototype. The most likely maker is Horstmann, a major Civil War outfitter in Philadelphia, that is known to have produced many printed wool flags for the Exposition.

The following text is written on the reverse side of the hoist binding with a dip pen: "Geo. Myers 2021 N. 22nd at Phila." This would be the name of a former owner of the flag. According to the records of the Union League Club of Philadelphia, they admitted a member by the name of George H. Myers in 1896, but general searches on the name and/or address yielded no further clues about a possible identity.

Mounting: The banner has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, which was washed to reduce 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 modern frame comprised of three excellent quality moldings. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is minor to moderate soiling, accompanied by minor mothing of the wool fibers and minor losses throughout. There is some fading of the hand-colored pigment. 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: Parade flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1874
Latest Date of Origin: 1876
State/Affiliation: Pennsylvania
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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