Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Antique Flags > American Flags


Web ID: fcj-873
Available: In Stock
Frame Size (H x L): 12.75" x 15"
Flag Size (H x L): 5.75" x 8"
Bible flags are tiny flags made for a soldier by a loved one, to be presented as a token of pride and affection when he went away to war. They received this name because they were typically carried in a Bible, both because this was the safest place that a soldier might keep a flat, treasured object on his person with limited places to do so, and because it sometimes doubled as a bookmark.

This example, in the First National format (a.k.a., Stars & Bars), is made of silk and entirely hand-sewn. Note that there 8 stars in the blue canton of this example, instead of the expected 7, 11, or 13 seen on most flags in the Stars & Bars design.

7 states seceded from the Union in the initial wave, between December 20th, 1860 and February second, 1861. The Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America was adopted on February 7th and the Stars & Bars was adopted as the first of three designs for the Confederate national flag on March 4th, a day that coincided with Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. The original configuration had 7 stars.

Virginia became the 8th state to secede on April 17th, with the ordinance ratified by the Virginia State Legislature on May 3rd. Because there was so little time before the secession of the 9th and 10th states of Arkansas and Tennessee, which followed on May 6th (ratified on May 20th and June 6th, respectively), very few flags in the First National design have 8 stars.

The flag was discovered in 1962 with Civil War memoirs and other personal effects during a chance attic cleanup on Mahopac, NY by antiques dealer Alec Thomas. The contents of that fortunate discovery were all traceable to one Alfred Bellard, a youthful enlistee who signed up on August of 1861 for a 3-year hitch as a Private with the 5th New Jersey volunteers. The illustrated Bellard memoirs so fascinated Thomas that he researched and organized the material for publication under the tile Gone for a Soldier (Little Brown, 1975) with a 6-page excerpt also published in American Heritage in Aug of the same year. The book edited by none other then David Herbert Donald, would become a Civil war classic, but Thomas retained the bible flag until 1982 when he sold it to a Maryland collector. Bellard’s memoirs cite an incident in which a “small rebel flag” was confiscated from a defiant woman in Virginia. The faintly inscribed words "Rebel" and "Rebel Flag" in the white bar are similar in style to other written Bellard notation and were most likely penned by his own hand.

Bible flags were most often made of ladies’ dress silk or dress ribbon. A woman might use new fabric, but if the maker was a girlfriend of fiancée, as opposed to a mother or sister, then she might use fabric clipped from her own dress a way to further personalize the gift. Bible flags are found in all shapes and sizes, and with every star configuration imaginable, but most are small enough to fit in a small Bible. Many were small enough to fit in a Civil War cover (a small 19th century envelope used for correspondence in that period) and were mailed to a loved one in the field. There was no standard size, however, so they were sometimes larger. This particular example is larger than most, which also makes it more interesting.

The colors of a First national pattern flag included a blue canton and white stars (though sometimes gilded or gold), set in the upper hoist end corner, and a field of three bars, red-white-red. Due to the lack of red silk in the average household, and the likelihood of some pink silk among a woman’s effects, pink was often substituted, as-is the case here.

The stars of this example were executed in needlepoint embroidery, with simple, linear stitches, so that they appear like the rowels of a spur. Arranged in a wreath of 7, with a star in the very center, note how their crude format on such a tiny, square canton, adds substantial folk quality to the homemade design. The bars are made of silk ribbon. This was a popular choice with Bible flags. Due to their small size, it was much more practical to seam lengths of ribbon with finished (selvedge) edges than it was to make French seams with clipped pieces of silk broadcloth.

One-sided, as many Bible flags were, the plain weave silk canton appears in the upper right, so that the flag is backwards-facing compared to what one would expect today. In actuality, display of American flags with the canton in the upper left did not enter the American consciousness as the one correct manner of presentation until sometime around the year 1900, and was not formally dictated as such until the flag code was adopted in 1923. In the 19th century (and prior), it was just as common to see flags displayed with the canton on the right.

Notes on Confederate Flag Design:

The Confederacy had three successive national designs. Because they were so alike, use of the Stars & Stripes and the Stars & Bars on the same battlefield created great confusion. For this reason, the Second National Confederate flag was adopted on May 26th, 1863. It was white in color, with the Southern Cross (the Confederate battle flag) serving as its canton. Soldiers and officers alike disliked this design because it looked too much like a surrender flag, and, if given the opportunity, they would dip the end in blood.

36 days before the war’s end a red vertical bar was added at the fly end and the result became the third national design. This was the “blood stained banner”, but officially it did not represent blood, but rather paid homage to the French, who lent aid to the South during the war. Note how if you were to replace the first third of the flag with a blue vertical bar, the result would be the French tri-color, the national flag of France.

The Southern Cross battle flag that we are so familiar with today was put into use more quickly than the adoption of the Second National Confederate design and was carried simultaneously by various Confederate units for the remainder of the war. The purpose was the same. It was a better signal, being distinctly different than the Stars & Stripes, but many people are surprised to learn that the Southern Cross, by itself, was not the national flag of the Confederate States of America. Officially, in rectangular format, it served as the Confederate Navy Jack. In square format it came to be called “the battle flag”, partly because it was carried in this format, for that purpose, by Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, as well as by Beauregard’s Army and others. It also received widespread love in the South because it was Lee's flag, and because the second and third national designs were not particularly admired by Confederate soldiers, the second for reasons previously stated and the third because the design was so short-lived.

Mounting: The black-painted frame dates to the period between the late 18th century and 1830 and has outstanding surface. The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% hemp fabric. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is significant soiling and fading throughout, but part of the reason that the flag's presentation is so outstanding and endearing is due to this fact. There are minor to moderate splits in the white bar. Many of my clients prefer early flags to show their age and history of use, while the rarity and desirability of Bible flags warrants practically any condition.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 08
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1861
State/Affiliation: Virginia
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: Please call (717) 676-0545 or (717) 502-1281

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