Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 49.5" x 84"
Flag Size (H x L): 37.5" x 72"
13 star American national flag, made around the time of the 1876 centennial of American independence. The stars are made of cotton, hand-sewn, and are double-appliquéd, meaning that they are applied to both sides of the blue canton. These are arranged in rows of 3-2-3-2-3, which is the most often encountered design across 13 star flags with pieced-and-sewn construction that were made during the latter half of the 19th century, especially in the period following the Civil War. Note how the stars do not all point upward, as one might expect of a modern flag, but instead are oriented in various positions on their vertical axis. This adds a wonderful visual quality to the flag's presentation.

In most cases the 3-2-3-2-3 design can also be viewed as a diamond of stars, with a star in each corner and a star in the very center. It is of interest to note that the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern can also be interpreted as a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, which some feel could have been the design of the very first American flag and may identify a link between this star configuration and the British Union Jack. The pattern is often attributed--albeit erroneously in my opinion--to New Jersey Senator Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is credited with having played the most significant role in the original design of the American national flag. Hopkinson's original drawings for the design of the flag have not survived and his other depictions of 13 star arrangements for other devices are inconsistent.

The flag appears on all accounts to be homemade. The stripes and canton are made of lightweight, plain weave cotton that has been joined with treadle stitching. While a poor fabric for flag-making, because it absorbs water, cotton was nonetheless the fabric of choice for most homemade flags, like this one, as wool bunting wasn’t widely available in general stores and silk was too costly. While some commercially made flags with pieced-and-sewn construction were available in cotton, the stitching and general characteristics here are not indicative of a professional flag-maker.

While the purpose of this particular flag is not known with certainty, chances are that it was made to be carried in a parade or at some other patriotic event honoring the centennial.

13 star flags have been continuously produced throughout our nation’s history for purposes both patriotic and utilitarian. This was the original number of stars on the American flag, representing the original 13 colonies, so it was appropriate for any flag made in conjunction with celebrations of American independence. In addition to their use at the 1876 centennial, 13 star flags were hoisted at other patriotic events, including Lafayette’s visit in 1825-26 and the nation’s sesquicentennial (150-year anniversary) in 1926. They were displayed during the Civil War, to reference past struggles for American liberty and victory over oppression, and were used by 19th century politicians while campaigning for the same reason.

13 star flags were flown by American ships both private and federal. As the number of stars grew with the addition of new states, it became more and more difficult to fit stars on a small flag so that they may be viewed from afar as individual objects. The U.S. Navy used 13 stars on the ensigns made for small boats for precisely this reason. Flag experts disagree about the precisely when the Navy began to revert to 13 stars and other low counts for this practice. Some feel that the use of 13 star flags never stopped, which seems to be supported by depictions of ships in period artwork. This was, of course, the original number of stars on the first American national flag, by way of the First Flag Act of 1777, and equal to the number of original colonies that became states. Any American flag that has previously been official remains so according to the flag acts, so it remains perfectly acceptable to fly 13 star flags today by way of congressional law.

The Navy's use of 13 stars flags theoretically ended in 1916, following an Executive Order of President Woodrow Wilson, but old military traditions die hard and according to at least one expert, Wilson’s order did not completely dispel the presence of 13 star flags on U.S. Navy ships. Some private ships flew 13 star flags during the same period as the Navy, and the use of yachting ensigns with a wreath of 13 stars surrounding an anchor, which began in 1848, still persists today.

Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed in our own conservation department, which is led by masters degree trained staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples. Feel free to contact us for more details.

The background is 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black-painted, hand-gilded and distressed molding is Italian and has a substantial serpentine profile. The glazing is U.V. protective Plexiglas.

Condition: There is minor to moderate foxing and staining throughout, accompanied by moderate fading in the upper, hoist-end corner of the canton. The flag displays beautifully and these characteristics of its age are endearing.
Collector Level: Intermediate-Level Collectors and Special Gifts
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 13
Earliest Date of Origin: 1870
Latest Date of Origin: 1880
State/Affiliation: 13 Original Colonies
War Association: 1866-1890 Indian Wars
Price: SOLD

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