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  38 STAR FLAG WITH A RARE AND BEAUTIFUL VARIATION OF THE "GREAT STAR" OR "GREAT LUMINARY" PATTERN, AN EXAMPLE OF EXTRAORDINARY QUALITY, MADE BY R.W. MUSGROVE IN BRISTOL, NEW HAMPSHIRE FOR AN 1885 REUNION OF THE 12th NH VOLUNTEERS

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 12" x 14.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 6.5" x 9.5"
Description....:
Outstanding 38 star parade flag, printed on silk, with a very interesting overprint that reads celebrates a reunion of the 12th New Hampshire Volunteers. Gilmanton Iron Works is not a business, as one might be inclined to guess, but one of several small parishes within the town of Gilmanton, which lies north of the state capital of Concord.

The 38th state, Colorado, received its statehood on august 1st, 1876. The 38 star flag became official in 1877 and remained so until 1890.

The presence of the extensive text in the stripes on this particular example is perhaps the flag's best attribute, adding both visual and historical interest. This reads: "Twentieth Reunion, 12th N.H. Vols., Gilmanton Iron Works, N.H., Friday, Sept. 25th, 1885." Seldom do Civil War veteran's reunion flags specify the name of a particular regiment. No less interesting, however, is the presence of what is known as the "Great Star" design--small stars arranged into the form of one large star--in the light blue canton.

Flags are sometimes encountered that list the number and/or name of a Civil War veteran's post. These were typically chapters of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR served as the primary organization for Union Civil war vets. Because members of any particular GAR post could be comprised of vets that served from a variety of regiments, regiment designations were typically left off of the overprinted flags that were ordered for use at their parades and celebrations. Overprinted varieties are scarce enough to begin with and most of the surviving examples date to the 20th century. The fact that this particular flag dates to the 1880's, is dated and assigned to a particular group of volunteers is terrific. And equally interesting is the name of the town itself, which is both unusual and endearingly intriguing.

Among flag collectors, the Great Star configuration is perhaps the most coveted geometric pattern. It seems to have came about shortly before 1818, when Congressman Peter Wendover of New York requested that Captain Samuel Reid, a War of 1812 Naval hero, help to create a new design that would become the third official format of the Stars & Stripes. The primary concern of ship captains was that the signal remained easily recognized on the open seas. Reid’s concept of placing all the stars in a star-shaped pattern would have kept the constellation in roughly the same format as the number of states grew and more stars were added, in a distinct design that could be quickly identified through a spyglass. Though his proposal was rejected by President Monroe due to the increased cost of arranging the stars in this manner, the Great Star was produced by anyone willing to make it. Its rarity today, along with its beauty, has driven its desirability among collectors.

This particular variation seems to be unique to 38 star parade flags. Note how it includes a star in each corner of the canton, and a star between every arm except one. This blank space was purposeful and left open for the much-anticipated addition of another Western Territory, most likely the Dakota Territory, which arrived on November 2nd, 1889, as two separate states. Because no new states were admitted until that date, it is interesting to witness the anticipation of more states by this flag-maker in 1885.

One of these flags survives with an original mailing tube, marked with the name R.W. Musgrove, a book and job printer located in Bristol, New Hampshire. It is rare to be able to identify the maker of 19th century printed flags because they were not signed and were seldom pictured in catalogues. These little flags are known to have come on a turned wooden staff of unusually high quality, that was varnished and had an integrated ball finial. Two silk ties were hand-sewn to each of the flags, evidently by Musgrove's shop. Their inclusion is also unusual. While the staff is absent on this flag, one of the silk ties remains.

Some facts about Gilmanton and Gilmanton Iron Works:
Gilmanton was incorporated in 1727. First known as Gilmanton, it was home to the Gilman family, originally settled at Exeter. Twenty-four members of the Gilman family received land grants in the new town of Gilmanton, as did related families, including those by the name of Dudley, Leavitt, Folsom and the Coffin. At one point it was the second largest town in the state after Portsmouth. The original town was larger than it is now, with villages and parishes including Belmont, Gunstock Parish (Gilford), Hurricane, Tioga, Factory Village and Lakeport. A parish first called Averytown, the site of an unprofitable iron-mining enterprise, is still known as Gilmanton Iron Works.

Mounting: The silver gilded molding dates to the period between 1830 and 1850. This is a pressure mount between 100% cotton twill, black in color, and U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There is moderate rust spotting throughout and minor to moderate soiling. There is minor splitting along the top edge of the flag, along with a moderate area of fabric loss along the top of the canton, near the hoist end. One of the original silk ties is absent and there is some breakdown with associated loss in the other. 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: 38
Earliest Date of Origin: 1885
Latest Date of Origin: 1885
State/Affiliation: New Hampshire
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD
 

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