Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Sold Flags


Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): Approx. 58" x 105"
Flag Size (H x L): 46" x 93"
American national flag of the Civil War period, with rectilineal arrangement of 24 stars, probably made by a Union sympathizer. At the onset of the war, President Abraham Lincoln fervently urged the American people not to remove the stars from the flag that represented those states that were succeeding from the Union. Lincoln felt strongly that there was great need to demonstrate that he had not written off those Americans living in the South who did not support the ideals of Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. He also thought that there was great need to show both the nation and the world that we were still a unified body and that he would do everything in his power to ensure victory. Despite his pleas, however, some anti-Southern patriots did as they pleased with regard to the number of stars on the Stars & Stripes, removing those that represented Confederate states. The 24 stars on this particular flag represents a count that could theoretically be reached for that purpose at more than one time during the course of the war. One possibility occurred between May 6th and May 20th of 1861, when there were 34 states, 10 of which had seceded. On May 20th an 11th state joined the ranks of the Confederacy and the count of those states that had not voted for and ratified secession fell to 23. Another possibility occurred between June 20th of 1863 and Halloween in 1864, when there were still 11 states that had "officially" seceded, but West Virginia had broken off from Virginia to become the 35th state.

By the end of 1861, the Border States of Missouri and Kentucky had been accepted into the Confederacy by its president, Jefferson Davis, but these states did not secede from the Union in the same manner. The first 11 had each voted for secession by popular vote of the people and this vote was afterwards ratified by the respective state legislatures. In the case of Missouri, however, an ordinance of secession was never presented to the people for a vote. Instead, Southern-supporting state congressman met without their Northern-sympathizing counterparts. This rump congress overwhelmingly approved Missouri secession. Supporters of the Southern cause in Kentucky soon followed suit. While the state attempted to maintain neutrality, the invasion by Confederate troops prompted them to call upon Union forces to drive out the Confederate Army. While in a state of unrest, some citizens formed a group that stylized itself as a “Convention of the People of Kentucky”. With 200 participants representing 65 counties, the coalition voted in favor of secession and the Confederate States of America formally admitted Kentucky as the 13th state.

Stars for Missouri and Kentucky are usually included on Confederate battle flags, but each of these states supplied Union regiments. Because their circumstances were significantly different than the first 11, a Southern-exclusionary flag made by Union supporters would probably not exclude the two states.

The construction of the flag is indicative of the period between 1861 and the 1880's, but the textile has the feel of the earlier part of this date bracket. The stars of the flag are made of cotton, hand-sewn and double-appliquéd. This means that they are applied to both sides of the blue canton. Note how they point in various directions on their vertical axis, which adds a nice folk quality to the flag's presentation.

The stripes and canton are made of wool bunting that was pieced and joined with treadle stitching. There is a binding along the hoist, made of heavy cotton twill, with two brass grommets. This was applied by treadle machine.

Three alternatives should be discussed as possible reasons for the flag's manufacture. Flags of this sort were sometimes made to be flown to celebrate anniversaries of statehood, either at home or at a World's Fair where the respective state might be participating in an exhibition. Theoretically, since Missouri became the 24th state on August 10th, 1821, the flag could have either been made to celebrate 50 years of Missouri in 1871, or for display at the Missouri pavilion at a World's Fair event, such as the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia. Neither of these particular occasions, however, seems a probable explanation. As for the former, no significant anniversary celebration seems to have been held in Missouri. While it is possible that a 24 star flag was flown on the capitol sometime that year, no such specific history accompanies this flag and the chances of this seem slim.

The Centennial Expo, by contrast, was a massive event that opened on May 10th and lasted for six months. Missouri had its own building. If the flag in question was displayed, this would have been its location. The flag is large enough in scale to have been flown outdoors, but the condition is too good for it to have flown for six months, unless it was impeccably cared for and brought in at most all times of inclement weather, which seems unlikely. Furthermore, images of the Missouri building exist and there is no flag or flag pole shown. The flag may have certainly have been of a size to have been hung indoors, if there was ample space, but the building is small and unless draped, this also seems unlikely.

There were a couple of World's fairs at the beginning of the 1880's, but the flag almost certainly pre-dates that decade and likely pre-dates 1870. Civil War period is the most likely date of manufacture.

The third possibility is nautical use. Through much of the 19th century, particularly the second half, the U.S. Navy flew flags with low star counts on small boats. They did so to insure that the stars could be better viewed as individual objects at a distance, and also perhaps because it was easier to sew fewer stars on a small flag. Called "small boat ensigns," more than 95% of these flags displayed a count of 13 stars, though 16 and 20 star examples are known and other counts were probably used, such as 12 and 15 stars. The Navy seems to have preferred low counts where the number could be laid out easily in either a staggered rows or a neat rectangle. 24 stars is yet a another possibility, because it laid out neatly in 4 rows of 6. With so many stars, however, the number was fast approaching the total of 34, 35, or 36 stars--all in use during the Civil War, and it seems reasonable to wonder why the full star count wasn't employed.

The examples of U.S. Navy small boat ensigns with star counts other than 13 all seem to date to the war itself, or immediately prior. 13 star examples first appeared in U.S. Naval Regulations in 1854 and continued to be flown until Woodrow Wilson wrote an executive order that terminated their use in 1916.

The Navy generally made most of its flags until the Civil War, when it suddenly found itself woefully unprepared in many ways, not least of which was flag-making. As a result, orders flew out to the local businesses to make flags. In many instances they grabbed every flag in stock, regardless of the specifics laid forth in their own regulations.* Practical decision-making to meet the demands of war was the rule of thumb with regard to military flags during the 19th century, both on land and at sea.

If this 24 star example was produced to serve as a U.S. Navy small boat flag, the characteristics of its construction, per my experience with navy-made flags of this period, demonstrate that it was not produced by the Navy, but rather by a commercial source. I would also suggest that such a high star would be meaningful in this instance and probably Southern-exclusionary, in addition to being practical and congruent with other small boat ensigns that had a rectilineal layout.

Whatever the case may be with regard to its purpose, this is a rare count for an early American flag in any period and wonderful to encounter in a Civil war example. Even though stars were officially added on the 4th of July following a state's addition, [by way of the 3rd Flag Act of 1818,] the 24th star would have been added by most flag-makers in or around 1821, when Missouri became a state. The 24 star flag became official on July 4th, 1822 and was generally used until the addition of Arkansas as the 25th state in 1836. Even though this was a significant period of time for a flag to remain current during the 19th century, 24 star flags are extraordinarily rare. Only a small handful of period examples exist. For this reason, collectors desiring to own an early flag with 24 stars have few options. When wonderful, early flags such as this one turn up that date to the mid-late 19th century or the early 20th, in this or any other scarce, low star count, they are usually desired by the residents of the respective state with which the star count is associated.

Provenance: The flag was formerly in the collection of Tom Connelly.

Mounting: The flag has been hand-stitched to 100% silk organza on every seam and throughout the star field for support. It was then sewn to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been 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. The glazing is U.V. protective acrylic.

Condition: There is extremely minor mothing throughout and there are extremely minor holes. At the bottom of the hoist binding, on the reverse, is a small patch made of plain weave cotton that probably covers a small hole. There is a darning repair near the center of the 5th red stripe and there is an L-shaped tear in the middle of the last white stripe. Age toning and soiling are extremely minor. The flag is in excellent condition for the period and does not appear to have been flown for any extended time.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count: 24
Earliest Date of Origin: 1861
Latest Date of Origin: 1864
State/Affiliation: Missouri
War Association: 1861-1865 Civil War
Price: SOLD

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