Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 43.5" x 63.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 30.5" x 46.5"
This extraordinary 38 star flag displays one of the most interesting star arrangements I have ever seen among early examples. There is hidden meaning embedded in the position and number of the stars, which are hand-embroidered from silk floss in 3 different styles. At the point in time when the Civil War ended there were 36 states. The 16 stars in the center of the canton represent the 11 official Confederate States that seceded from the Union during the war, plus the 5 border states that supported the Southern cause (Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia). These were sewn through use of crisscrossing linear lines, as one might draw a star with a pencil. The 20 stars that surround and contain these inner 16 represent the remaining number of Union States at the war's end. These stars have their arms filled in, but have an open pentagon in the center. By 1876, 2 more states joined the Union (Nebraska and Colorado), and these are represented in the 2 single stars that flank above and below the central pattern. The stars that represent these 2 states were sewn using a linear outline and a circular center.

The fact that the flag has just 12 stripes, instead of the official 13, is another interesting trait. Given the prominent symbolism in the canton, it probably was chosen to send an anti-Southern message, removing the stripe for South Carolina, which was the first state to secede from the Union, fired the first shots on Fort Sumter, and thereby played a pivotal role as the catalyst for the outbreak of war.

The resulting fact that the last stripe ends in white instead of red is a also a rare and desirable feature. Flags that have stripes that begin and/or end on white--a necessary result of an even count--are coveted by collectors.

Hidden meanings aside, the star pattern itself is unique in flag collecting. It exists as the only example I have ever encountered in any variation of this design, in any star count, in the private market for antique flags. The concept of arranging the stars with a single star above or below a linear grouping is not a new one. Two of the earliest illustrations of 13 star flags, one French, printed in 1781 and one German, printed in 1782, show the stars in a 3x4 rectangle with a single star below it and a fleur-de-lis above (evidently to reflect French naval support of America in the Revolutionary War). But no flags have actually survived with this or any similar design.

  The stars are arranged on a striking, cornflower blue canton, made of silk taffeta. Note how the canton is tall and narrow instead of elongated, which creates a distinctly different appearance. This feature is most common in military designs. The stripes of the flag are made of wide, silk ribbon, pieced with treadle stitching. Silk flags with painted or embroidered stars are among the most desirable among early examples because they represented the highest level of quality and therefore are among the scarcest. The fact that silk was fragile didn’t help, because it contributed to the fact that silk flags were more likely to be discarded. Decay of silk flags was commonplace, not only because of the delicacy of the fabric, but also because silk of this period was often weighted with additives such as mineral salts, which proved to be caustic and destructive over time. The state of this particular flag makes it clear that un-weighted silk was used in its production, which certainly contributed to its preservation.

The purpose of manufacture was probably a parade or presentation piece for a military officer or regiment. Silk was typically the choice of fabrics for flags made for infantry or cavalry, military applications. Note the red, white and blue silk ribbon that was sewn to the hoist so that the flag could be affixed to a staff. It appears that the flag was flown or displayed in some capacity, because the topmost ribbons, which would have received the greatest stress, were torn from the flag and absent. Please note that one of the two ribbons present at the bottom of the hoist was moved to the top during the mounting process, in order that the display would be more balanced. Use of a section of the original ribbon was preferred over adding new or vintage ribbon that would not match, or simply leaving the top bare.

The 38th state, Colorado, received its statehood on August 1st, 1876. This was the year of our nation’s 100-year anniversary of independence. Although 37 was the official star count for the American flag in 1876, flag-making was a competitive venture, and no one wanted to be making 37 star flags when others were making 38’s. It is for this reason that 38 and 13 stars (to represent the original 13 colonies) are the two star counts most often seen at the Centennial International Exposition, the six-month long, World’s Fair, held in Philadelphia in honor of the event. The 38 star flag became official in 1877 and was generally used until the addition of the Dakotas in 1889.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% natural fabric for support throughout. The flag was then hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, 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 black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed Italian molding with a wide, convex profile. The front is U.V. protective acrylic.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1876
Latest Date of Origin: 1889
State/Affiliation: Colorado
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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