Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 72.5" x 127"
Flag Size (H x L): 61" x 115"

34 star American national flag of the Civil War period, with a strikingly beautiful variation of what is known as the “Great Star” pattern—a large star made up of smaller stars—which is bracketed by curved arches or “parenthesis” of stars on either side. The only one other similar flag that I have seen was a 38 star variety that was part of the Mastai collection and featured a Great Star flanked by square brackets. The Mastai’s wrote the landmark text on flag collecting, "The Stars and the Stripes", (Alfred A. Knopf , New York, 1973).

This flag descended in a family by the name of Kehoe and is of Massachusetts origin. There were only twelve individuals by that name in the 1860 census in Massachusetts, all of them living in two households in Provincetown, having immigrated from Ireland.

Among collectors, the Great Star configuration is the most coveted of all 19th century geometric patterns. It probably came about shortly after the War of 1812, when Congressman Peter Wendover, of New York, requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 naval hero, sought to create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. A recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reid became harbor master of New York following the war. During his lifetime, he created many innovations in signal use, including a system that could actually send messages from New York to New Orleans by sea in just two hours.

Use as a Naval signal had been the primary reason for the initial creation of an American national flag in the first place, in 1777, but since there was no official star design, the appearance of our flag varied greatly. So Reid and Wendover’s primary concern centered on both consistency and ease of recognition. Their hope was as more and more states joined the Union and more and more stars were added to the flag, that it would remain easily identified on the open seas. So in 1818, Reid suggested to Congress that the number of stripes permanently return to 13 (reduced from 15) and that the stars be grouped into the shape of one large star.

Reid’s proposal would have kept the star constellation in roughly the same format, in a pattern that could be quickly identified through a spyglass as the number of states grew. His concept for the stripes was ultimately accepted, but his advice on the star pattern was rejected by President James Monroe, due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in what would become known as the “Great Star”, “Great Flower”, or “Great Luminary” pattern. Monroe probably didn’t wish to impose this cost on either the government or civilians, so he suggested a simple pattern of justified rows. Never-the-less, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it and its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven the desirability of American flags with this configuration.

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.

Construction: The stars of the flag are made of cotton and are double-appliquéd (applied to both sides of the canton), which is made of merino wool with a twill weave. Sometime shortly thereafter, probably during the war, the section of the hoist along the canton was reinforced by the insertion of a two-and-a-half inch strip of felted Prussian blue wool which is not unlike the type seen in military uniforms of the period. This lighter stands in stark yet complimentary contrast to the rich, royal blue color of the canton itself. The seamstress who added the reinforcement actually lifted the stars and re-did the appliqué work so that they were sewed on top of the lighter wool reinforcement. The effect of the two strikingly different colors adds an interesting visual element to the flag’s overall presentation. The scarlet red stripes are made of a variety of merino wool that is slightly coarser than that used in the canton. The white stripes are made of a lightweight sailcloth, much like oxford cotton. These are joined to the canton with hand-stitching, but are joined to one-another with a variety of methods. The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 12th seams were basted by hand and finished with a treadle machine, while the 3rd, 5th, 10th and 11th seams were sewn entirely by hand. The top, bottom, and fly end were all bound by hand. The hoist was created by rolling the red, white, and blue fabric over a braided hemp rope and binding it with hand-stitching.

Mounting: The flag has not yet been mounted. We employ professional staff with masters degrees in textile conservation and can attend to all of your mounting and framing needs.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count: 34
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1863
State/Affiliation: Massachusetts
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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